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China to send its first female astronaut into orbit (+video)

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China's fourth space crew revealed

Liu and her two crewmates are all former pilots with the People's Liberation Army and members of the Communist Party of China, Xinhua reported.

As China's first woman to fly in space, Liu was selected from a field  female military pilots to join China's astronaut corps. She joined China's Air Force in 1997 and served in the Wuhan Flight Unit before being selected for the astronaut program.

Another female Chinese pilot, Wang Yaping, was also in the running to fly on the Shenzhou 9 crew. Liu currently holds the rank of major, Xinhua reported. [Women in Space: A Gallery of Firsts]

"China's first female astronaut in space … will be the 56th woman to fly into space out of the more than 500 people that have made it into orbit worldwide," said space history and artifacts expert Robert Pearlman, editor of collectSPACE.com, a SPACE.com partner site. "The first woman in space, Soviet cosmonaut Valentina Tereshkova was launched on June 16, 1963. If Shenzhou 9 launches on Saturday, it will be exactly 49 years to the day after Tereshkova's historic first flight."

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