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Shenzhou 9 Launches With First Chinese Woman

A Chinese Long March 2F rocket blasted off today carrying the Shenzhou 9 spacecraft and three taikonauts including 33-year-old female fighter pilot Liu Yang, China’s first woman sent to orbit. The launch was at 10:37 UTC on June 16, — in the early evening at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in the Gobi Desert. In the next few days the crew will manually dock to the Chinese Spacelab Tiangong-1 which was launched late last year. Their mission will is scheduled to last 13 days, for the first Chinese manned vehicle to dock in orbit.

Along with Yang are Jing Haipeng, the commander and a veteran of two other spaceflights, and Liu Wang.

The launch was carried live on state television, and before lift-off, the camera showed the three crew members in the spacecraft occasionally waving.
This is China’s fourth human space mission since 2003 when astronaut Yang Liwei became the country’s first person in orbit.

Once Shenzhou 9 reaches the vicinity of Tiangong 1, the crew will perform a manual docking, but the Chinese space agency has said future missions will have automated dockings.

Some reports have indicated the Shenzhou spacecraft is designed with a common docking system that would allow it to dock with the International Space Station in the future should China be invited to visit.

Once on board the Taingong 1, the crew will do some medical research and conduct other research including monitoring live butterflies and butterfly eggs and pupae.

China has said they hope to add more modules to their space station, with a final version of it built by 2020. A white paper released last December outlining China’s ambitious space program said the country “will conduct studies on the preliminary plan for a human lunar landing.”


Nancy Atkinson is currently Universe Today's Contributing Editor. Previously she served as UT's Senior Editor and lead writer, and has worked with Astronomy Cast and 365 Days of Astronomy. Nancy is also a NASA/JPL Solar System Ambassador.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Patrick Ahles June 16, 2012, 2:04 PM

    “a final version of it built by 2010”?

    • Torbjörn Larsson June 16, 2012, 8:17 PM

      Recurrent typo. I believe it should be 2020. That is, if the ISS is sunk by for example US non-support, they will be the only one with a station.

      Then again maybe not, I hear the russians are planning to take their modules and rebuild a smaller station if and when ISS is retired.

      • delphinus100 June 16, 2012, 11:32 PM

        There will be other US stations before then…they just may not be operated by NASA.

        • Torbjörn Larsson June 17, 2012, 3:44 PM

          That is US centric, technically ISS has a US part that is cohabited by US. But I started it by looking from a nationalist view and forgetting the commercial options, point well taken.

  • Ettalb June 16, 2012, 2:11 PM

    No vibration AT ALL?! …

    • Torbjörn Larsson June 16, 2012, 8:11 PM

      Looked much stabler than what we are used to, They discussed that, there are vibration but not too visible. They can’t get around the aerodynamical stress, but perhaps their engines have little so called pogo which is the main vibration problem of many launchers.

  • Paul Reiche June 16, 2012, 6:27 PM

    Another difference from other launches — no visible exhaust cloud?

    • Torbjörn Larsson June 16, 2012, 8:12 PM

      There shouldn’t be much if any, it is an all liquid rocket. Visible exhaust is pretty much a solid rocket phenomena from all the dust particles generated.

  • gonggabear teddy June 16, 2012, 6:58 PM

    one step for China, a big leap for human kind. Congras!

  • Torbjörn Larsson June 16, 2012, 8:09 PM

    Refreshingly non-rehearsed launch commentary. They will get used to it soon.

  • Brent Bozo June 16, 2012, 8:31 PM

    at 5:45 in the Video a UFO flys by…heh
    (Satelite in orbit most likly)

  • Zoutsteen from Holland June 16, 2012, 9:41 PM

    We now have all the major Countries (with colaboration) with a space station.
    Now to wait for a country that wants to rent SpaceX or Cygnus for its own national space station in space. Hilton might probably be next with a hotel if they take their sweet time.

  • delphinus100 June 16, 2012, 11:32 PM

    Good luck to them!

  • SJStar June 17, 2012, 3:52 AM

    Some reports have indicated the Shenzhou spacecraft is designed with a common docking system that would allow it to dock with the International Space Station in the future should China be invited to visit.

    I’d encourage the American powers that be to encourage that. Since they were against China’s being a part of the ISS, I wouldn’t hold up chance of it happening. Sensibly, it would go the other way too, were if the ISS needed to be evacuate, they could use the Chinese space station too. Cooperation and safety for human exploration must be one of the top priorities for the short and long term. i’d encourage Americans to support such ideals.

  • Alejandro Ruiz June 17, 2012, 4:47 AM

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  • Aqua4U June 17, 2012, 3:34 PM

    Fortune cookie say: “You will rest in a heavenly abode.” But getting used to eating with chopsticks in zero gee is gonna be trick and quite messy? LOL!

    Good luck you guys!

  • David Dickinson June 17, 2012, 6:58 PM

    Quick update; everything I’ve been hearing suggests that the initial docking of Shenzhou-9 will be automated; a manual undocking/docking will be conducted later in the mission.

  • Steve June 18, 2012, 3:32 AM

    No doubt, this is a huge step for the Chinese government. It’s a step in the right directory for them and will be great inspiration for other women… not that they do not already have a society of very smart people.