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Liu Yang, China's first female astronaut

Xinhua/cpcchina.org

Liu Yang, China's first female astronaut

This undated photo shows Liu Yang, 34, one of the three taikonauts who will be carried by the Shenzhou-9 spaceship for China's first manned space docking mission with the orbiting Tiangong-1 space lab module. Liu was selected as a taikonaut in 2010. [Photo/Xinhua]

Liu Yang (born October 6, 1978) is a Chinese pilot and astronaut who served as a crew member on the space mission Shenzhou-IX. On June 16, 2012, Liu became the first Chinese woman in space.

Liu was born in Zhengzhou, Henan in 1978. She graduated from People's Liberation Army Air Force Aviation College of Changchun.

Liu joined the People's Liberation Army Air Force in 1997 and became a member of the Communist Party of China in 2001. She is a veteran pilot with 1,680 hours of flying experience. After two years of astronaut training, Liu excelled in testing before being selected with another woman, Wang Yaping, as a candidate for the astronaut corps.

Liu was selected for the crew of Shenzhou-IX, the first manned mission to the Chinese space station Tiangong-1, along with Jing Haipeng, the first repeat Chinese space traveller, and Liu Wang. Liu became the first female Chinese astronaut to go into space. The mission was launched on June 16, 2012, 49 years to the day after the first female space traveller, cosmonaut Valentina Tereshkova was launched. During this manned space mission, Liu performed experiments in space medicine.

The following is a profile about her which Xinhua News Agency released in June 2012.

An eloquent speaker and a lover of cooking, Liu Yang is well-poised to be the first Chinese woman in space.

When she watched the news on television of China's first manned space mission in 2003, the pilot couldn't help but wonder: What would the Earth look like from outer space?

Nine years later, Liu is getting the opportunity to find out herself as China's first female astronaut, taking her place among three Chinese chosen to crew the Shenzhou-9 manned spacecraft.

The 33-year-old will be in charge of medical experiments during the mission, which will also feature China's first attempt at a manual space docking procedure.

"I am grateful to the motherland and the people. I feel honored to fly into space on behalf of hundreds of millions of female Chinese citizens," Liu said at a Friday press conference.

"I have full confidence," Liu said before the mission. "There are many foreign female astronauts who have been into space. Men and women have their own advantages and capabilities in carrying out space missions. They can complement each other and better complete their mission."

The native of central China's Henan province started looking toward the skies just after high school, when one of her teachers convinced her to enroll in an aviation school.

Joining the People's Liberation Army (PLA) Air Force in 1997, Liu became a veteran pilot after flying safely for 1,680 hours. She was promoted to deputy head of a PLA flight unit before being recruited as a prospective astronauts in May 2010. She is now an Air Force major.

After two years of training, which shored up her astronautic skills and adaptability to the space environment, Liu excelled in testing and was selected in March this year to crew the Shenzhou-9.

"When I was a pilot, I flew in the sky. Now that I am an astronaut, I will fly in space. This will be a much higher and farther flight," Liu said.

Liu has been described by her colleagues as being outgoing, eloquent and well-versed.

Since joining the military, she has received accolades for her public speaking, winning first place in a military speech contest in 2010.

She has also impressed others as a quick learner. After becoming a prospective astronaut in 2010, she devoted the first year to basic academic and physical training, only starting to train in aerospace and astronautics a year ago. Before the start of the Shenzhou-9 mission, she had finished all scheduled training courses.

"Despite starting her training late, she is now on the same page as us, which exceeded our expectations," said Jing Haipeng, commander of upcoming mission.

Jing was also impressed by the swiftness and decisiveness Liu has displayed during training sessions, citing the calm manner she displays in dealing with simulated emergencies.

However, the difficulty and intensity of her training has not deprived her of life's pleasures. Liu loves reading, particularly novels, essays and history books. She is also a proficient cook.

"I love children and I love life," said Liu, who lives in Beijing with her husband. "To be with my family is one kind of happiness, but to fly is another kind that people cannot typically experience."