Space station in the works as China sends up first woman astronaut
Xinhua News Agency has officially confirmed that the Chinese-manned spaceship Shenzhou-9 with three astronauts onboard is to be launched on June 16. It is the first time in China that a woman astronaut will be included in the crew.
The mass media have already revealed her name. Major Liu Yan of the Chinese Air Force is 34 years old and a member of the Communist Party of China. Her flying experience totals 11 years. During her service in the Air Force of the People's Liberation Army of China, Liu Yan has mastered several types of airplanes, spending altogether more than 1600 hours in the air. Liu Yan is married to her colleague and has one son.
It is reported that during the upcoming expedition, Liu Yan will not only be China’s first woman astronaut, but will also to perform a spacewalk. It should be noted that she is no stranger to extreme situations. During her service in one of the air force squadrons, she successfully landed a combat aircraft after colliding with a flock of 18 pigeons in the air. Two birds were jammed in the air inlets of the fighter, the right turbine was destroyed, the cabin’s lantern was covered with blood, and one of the engines failed. However, the young woman managed to level out the almost uncontrollable plane and land successfully.
Once in orbit emergency situations in space are not unexpected, but they will hardly be as dramatic. “China is systematically and thoroughly implementing the program of manned space exploration,” Vasily Kashin from the Centre for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies told Voice of Russia. Kashin considers the first manned docking with the orbital module carried out by China to be the major event of this mission.
The spaceship will dock with the Tiangong-1 orbital module, which is the prototype for a future Chinese space station. At present the Chinese do not possess a carrier rocket capable of placing a full-fledged space station into orbit; that is why these test modules of the future station’s systems are being used. There are differences in the systems of life support for men and women, and it is necessary for the Chinese to test the very systems that are intended for women working in orbit. Therefore, Mrs. Liu Yan is being included in the crew heading for the experimental module.
According to Vasily Kashin’s assessment, Beijing can enter the next stage of manned space exploration after 2020. By this time, China should possess a carrier rocket powerful enough for it to begin the construction of a full-fledged orbital station. At present, they are basically perfecting technologies for spacecraft to dock in orbit. Two unmanned Shenzhou-8 dockings with the Tiangong-1 module were successfully carried out last November.
It is expected that the Shenzhou-9 spaceship carrying the two astronauts and Mrs. Liu Yan will remain in space for 15-20 days; during this time the three will conduct experiments in the Tiangong-1 module.