Liu Yang (33), who has become the first Chinese female space traveler, said she was doing it on behalf of hundreds of millions of Chinese women.
China successfully launched its Shenzhou-9 manned space mission at 6:37 pm local time on Saturday, sending the country’s first woman into space.
“I feel honoured to fly to space, on behalf of many hundred million Chinese women,” said Liu Yang (33) before take-off.
The spacecraft, carrying a total of three taikonauts—the Chinese term for professional space travellers—departed from Jiuquan Satellite Launch Centre in the north-western province of Gansu.
President Hu Jintao—speaking from Denmark where he was on a state visit—congratulated all participants. Wu Bangguo, the official number two in China’s ruling Communist Party, was present for take-off and wished them a “successful return.”
Shenzhou-9 is to spend 13 days in space, the Xinhua news agency reported. The crew is to perform manned docking manoeuvres and set up a simple space laboratory by linking with the Tiangong-1 orbital capsule.
Two of the taikonauts are to cross into Tiangong-1, or Palace of Heaven, where they will spend a total of 10 days carrying out scientific and technical experiment as well as physical tests.
Among other things, Liu is to test Chinese space equipment designed for women.
Joining a proud list
The mission is seen as an important step to developing a larger Chinese space station, to be completed by the year 2020.
A spokeswoman for China’s space programme said Liu’s trip into space also promoted “the social influence of the manned space programme.”
Counting Liu, more than 50 women from eight countries have travelled into space.
Shenzhou-9 is China’s fourth manned trip into space, an enterprise involving far higher risks and security provisions than unmanned space travel.
Beijing’s space operation centre has developed more than 700 contingency plans, Xinhua reported—Sapa.