China Launches Female Astronaut

    China's first female astronaut Liu Yang salutes during a sending off ceremony as she departs for the Shenzhou 9 spacecraft rocket launch pad at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in Jiuquan, China, Saturday, June 16, 2012. China will send its first woman and two other astronauts into space Saturday to work on a temporary space station for about a week, in a key step toward becoming only the third nation to set up a permanent base in orbit.(AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)

    Ng Han Guan / AP Photo

    It is China’s boldest mission in space yet, and the first ever for a Chinese woman. Liu Yang, a 33-year-old female Chinese astronaut, was one of three astronauts who blasted off on Saturday. Their mission will take them to an orbiting module–an important milestone as China works toward building a space station. China launched its first astronaut into space in 2003, and since then has worked toward building a fully independent space program. The country, which was excluded from the International Space Station, plans to build its own permanent station by 2020. Wu Ping, a spokesman for China’s space program, called the launch of a woman into space “a landmark event.”

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