China successfully launched its Shenzhou-9 spacecraft carrying its first woman, Liu Yang, and two other male colleagues on Saturday evening (June 16) to accomplish its first manned docking mission.
The spacecraft lifted off as scheduled at 5.00 p.m. (6.37 pm local time) from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwestern China.
Earlier in the afternoon, the launch center held a see-off party for Yang along with two other Chinese astronauts, Jing Haipeng and Liu Wang. The astronauts have been sent to fulfill country's space mission. They will attempt to dock with Tiangong-1 space lab, China's first space laboratory module, which is orbiting the outer space and work on board for more than a week.
All the three astronauts are former pilots of the People's Liberation Army (PLA), the members of China's Communist Party. Yang will be the first woman to set foot on the Tiangong-1 space lab.
"I am grateful to the motherland and the people. I feel honored to fly into the space on behalf ofhundreds of millions of female Chinese citizens," Liu Yang said at the press conference on Friday.
The 33-year-old female astronaut Liu Yang was a veteran pilot with 1,680 hours of flying experience, the China Daily reported.
"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, "Yang said.
"I will live up to your expectations and work with my teammates to fulfil this space mission," China Daily quoted her as saying.
Lui Yang said that to become an astronaut one should have theoretical knowledge and should go through difficulties and face challenging environment.
"The sense of mission and responsibility as well as the passion for aerospace undertakings are the source of courage to overcome difficulties," Yang said.
"Aside from fulfilling the tasks, I want to experience the fantastic environment in space and appreciate the beautiful Earth andour homeland from the space," she said at the conference.
According to the daily, Yang was selected this March for the mission after two years of extensive training and testing of her astronautic skills and adaptation capability to space environment.
With the successful launch of Shenzhou-9 capsule, China has become the third country next to US and Russia to have launched a manned spacecraft on its own. While two of the astronauts reportedly will test the module's life-support systems, the third astronaut will remain in the capsule in order to deal with any emergency situations.
The manned space docking mission is a major step towards development in China's space technology. It is a significant step to achieve China's goal of having a space station by 2020.