First Chinese woman launches into space

By Ted Bonnitt on June 17th, 2012
First Chinese woman launches into space
Liu Yang is the first woman launched into space by China
Liu Yang is the first woman launched into space by China

China's space program has taken another leap with the launch of the country's first female astronaut on a 20 day mission to attempt the nation's first manned docking mission.

The ambitious mission is an important step in China's plan to build a space station by 2020.

The three person crew successfully launched their Shenzhou-9 spacecraft atop the Long March 2F rocket.

The astronauts will attempt to dock with the orbiting Tiangong-1 space module, a small scale space station that was launched in September, 2011.  If successful, they will be the first crew to inhabit the station, and conduct experiments while living aboard.

China's first woman in space, 33 year old, Liu Yang, is a pilot and will run medical experiments on the mission.

China developed special spacesuits for female astronauts that allow for better movement, especially for the fingers. Besides spacesuits, the astronauts also brought "special underwear and sport suits," according to Li Tanqiu, deputy chief designer of the astronaut system department.

There is also a privacy curtain installed the waiting space module, also referred to as "Heavenly Palace 1."

For female astronauts, China introduced low-fat food, added more vegetables, desserts, chocolate and food with "blood-enriching" qualities.

China hopes to land astronauts on the moon, as early as 2016.

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