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China's first woman astronaut to soar into space

China will send its first woman into space when an ace airforce pilot joins a three-member team of astronauts on the Shenzhou-9 spacecraft which will blast-off today to attempt communist giant's first manned docking.

world Updated: Jun 16, 2012 12:02 IST

China will send its first woman into space when an ace airforce pilot joins a three-member team of astronauts on the Shenzhou-9 spacecraft which will blast-off today to attempt communist giant's first manned docking.

"When I was a pilot, I flew in the sky. Now I am an astronaut, I will fly in the space. That will be a higher and farther flight," Liu Yang who addressed a nationally televised press conference said summing up her feelings after being chosen for Friday's flight in a stiff competition.

"Aside from fulfilling the tasks, I want to experience the fantastic environment in space and appreciate the beautiful Earth and our homeland from the space," she said.

She along with her two male crew members Jing Haipeng and Liu Wang addressed the media before getting ready to join the count down to blast off on Saturday evening from a launch site in the Gobi desert.

The three astronauts, who are all members of the ruling Communist Party of China, will board the Shenzhou-9 spacecraft on Saturday at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Centre in northwestern China to fulfill the country's first manned space docking mission in a key step towards becoming only the third nation after US and Russia to set up a permanent base in orbit.

All three crew members are former pilots of the People's Liberation Army (PLA).

"33-year-old Liu will be part of the crew of Shenzhou-9 which would be launched tomorrow from the Jiuquan space base in China's north Gobi desert," according to an announcement by China's manned space docking programme headquarters.

Liu's mission will make China the third country after Russia and the US to send a woman into space. When successful, this will be China's fourth manned space launch.

Liu and her two male colleagues will dock with with Tiangong-1 module currently orbiting earth.