China set for space mission of first woman astronaut
Published: 16th Jun 2012 00:41:54
China is about to launch its fourth manned space mission.
It is sending a crew of three, including the nation's first female astronaut, to the orbiting Tiangong space lab.
Their Shenzhou-9 capsule is set to lift off from the Jiuquan spaceport on the edge of the Gobi desert at 18:37 local time (10:37 GMT; 1137 BST).
A Long March 2F rocket will put the astronauts on a path to dock with Tiangong in a couple of days' time.
They will then spend over a week living and working in orbit before returning to Earth.
The mission is commanded by Jing Haipeng, who is making his second spaceflight after participating in the Shenzhou-7 outing in 2008 - the mission that included China's first spacewalk.
Jing's flight engineers are both first-timers.
Liu Yang will look after the medical experiments during the mission
Liu Wang, a People's Liberation Army fighter pilot, has got his chance after spending 14 years in the China National Space Administration's astronaut corps.
Liu Yang, on the other hand, has emerged as China's first woman spacefarer after just two years of training.
Her role in the mission will be to run the medical experiments in orbit.
Shenzhou-9 follows on from the unmanned Shenzhou-8 venture last year that tested the technologies required to join a capsule to the Tiangong lab.
Those manoeuvres went very well and gave Chinese officials the confidence to send up humans.
When it arrives at Tiangong, the Shenzhou-9 craft is expected to make a fully automated docking, but there is a plan to try a manual docking later in the mission.
This would see the crew uncouple their vehicle from the lab, retreat to a defined distance and then command their ship to re-attach itself.
Liu Wang will take the lead in this activity. "We've done many simulations," he said during the pre-launch press conference.
"We've mastered the techniques and skills. China has first class technologies and astronauts, and therefore I'm confident we will fulfil the manual rendezvous."
Tiangong is the next step in a strategy that Beijing authorities hope will lead ultimately to the construction and operation of a large, permanently manned space station.
It is merely the prototype for the modules China expects to build and join in orbit. Mastering the rendezvous and docking procedures is central to this strategy.
At about 60 tonnes in mass, this proposed station would be considerably smaller than the 400-tonne international platform operated by the US, Russia, Europe, Canada and Japan, but its mere presence in the sky would nonetheless represent a remarkable achievement.
Concept drawings describe a core module weighing some 20-22 tonnes, flanked by two slightly smaller laboratory vessels.
Officials say it would be supplied by freighters in exactly the same way that robotic cargo ships keep the International Space Station (ISS) today stocked with fuel, food, water, air, and spare parts.
China is investing billions of dollars in its space programme. It has a strong space science effort under way, with two orbiting satellites having already been launched to the Moon. A third mission is expected to put a rover on the lunar surface.
The Asian country is also deploying its own satellite-navigation system known as BeiDou, or Compass.
Before leaving Earth, Lui Yang said the Shenzhou-9 mission would generate further pride in Chinese people.
"When I was a pilot I flew in the sky; now as an astronaut, I'm going into space. It's higher and it's farther," she said.
"I have a lot of tasks to fulfil, but besides these tasks I want to feel the unique environment in space and admire the views. I want to explore a beautiful Earth, a beautiful home.
"I want to record all my feelings and my work, to share with my friends, and my comrades and my future colleagues."
Jonathan.Amos-INTERNET@bbc.co.uk and follow me on Twitter
At 03:03:37 in WorldBritain is to temporarily close its embassy in the Libyan capital, Tripoli, because of worsening violence.
At 02:30:08 in EnglandHundreds of cobbles in a Manchester square are to be photographed to ensure they are returned in the same position once a new tram link has been built.
At 02:12:09 in EnglandThe remains of a grand Hampshire house destroyed during the English Civil War are being unearthed for the first time in more than a century.
At 01:47:29 in HeadlinesJournalists in Mexico have criticised a new law that restricts crime reporting in north-eastern Sinaloa state.
At 01:46:42 in EnglandFriendly, eclectic and organised by a fireman, the first-ever Cambridge Folk Festival could easily have been the last. Half a century later, and the festival taking place this weekend is known around the world as a premier music event.
At 01:43:48 in EnglandSome of the 20th Century's best-known "concrete cities", such as Birmingham, Hull, Portsmouth and Coventry, are embarking on major regeneration work. But as the bulldozers move in, what is being lost?
At 01:43:16 in HeadlinesForeign drivers are costing councils millions of pounds every year due to unpaid parking fines, the Local Government Association says.
At 01:39:49 in EnglandA Lancashire theatre's orchestra pit will be transformed into a World War One trench to commemorate the conflict.
At 01:38:17 in HeadlinesHamas says it does not know the whereabouts of an Israeli soldier it had been accused of capturing in Gaza.
At 01:36:35 in ScotlandWith the centenary of Britain joining the First World War approaching, communities around the country are preparing to mark the anniversary in their own way.
Harvard CitationBBC News, 2012. China set for space mission of first woman astronaut [Online] (Updated 16th Jun 2012)
Available at: http://www.ukwirednews.com/news/1434999/China-set-for-space-mission-of-first-woman-astronaut [Accessed 2nd Aug 2014]
News In Other Categories
With the doors to its brand new £1million training centre officially open, one of the UK's leading apprentice training providers, Bristol based S&B Automotive Academy, is showcasing its world-class facilities by launching a series of foreign student exchanges for the first time in its 41-year history. To get a flavour of what life is like as an apprentice in the UK, the Academy hosted 16 apprentice engineers and bus drivers from the G9 Automotive College in Hamburg, Germany, as part of a Europe-wide vocational training initiative called the ‘Leonardo Programme’ with support from the European Social Fund. In a reciprocal arrangement, S&B will be sending nine apprentices to Germany during February 2012 so that they can get an appreciation of life in the automotive industry on the Continent. A further three German exchange groups are being planned for next year. Designed to assist the development of vocational skills and training across Europe, including work placements for trainees, the Leonardo Programme has a budget of €1.75bn, which is helping to encourage UK organisations to work with their counterparts abroad. In what is expected to be another challenging year for employers in the UK automotive sector, S&B’s Chief Executive, Jon Winter, claims that the exchange initiative will bring many benefits to the Academy and its apprentices: “In a world of global automotive brands, it’s important for our learners to understand the international context of the industry they have chosen to make their career. This new exchange programme will enable apprentices and Academy staff alike to achieve a better understanding of the challenges and opportunities within the automotive arena in Europe. With the Academy’s influence also extending to the USA and Asia, there’s every possibility that this initiative could move further afield in the future.” Continued Winter: “The need for skilled technicians across the world is on the increase and we actively encourage our apprentices to look at broader horizons during their training. Many of them have already learned the phrase ‘Vorsprung durch Gelehrtheit’, quite simply, ‘Advancement through learning.” In the 2010/11 academic year, S&B doubled the number of successful Apprenticeships over the previous year with some 350 apprentices graduating from the Academy. At the same time, achievement levels reached an all-time high with an overall success rate of 85%. For those learners on the Advanced Apprenticeship three-year programme, success rates were even higher, at over 98%. PHOTO CAPTION: As part of their exchange visit, S&B Automotive Academy arranged for the German apprentices to visit Hampshire bus operator, Bluestar, at its Barton Park depot. The students are pictured with S&B’s Andy West (3rd right) and Steve Prewett, Bluestar’s Area Engineering Manager (2nd right). Ends http://www.sandbaa.com
One hundred years ago this summer Britain and her Empire stood on the brink of war. Frantic last-minute diplomacy had come to nothing - and armies were mobilising across Europe.
A gardener says he feared losing his leg after being bitten by a false widow spider hiding in a Vale of Glamorgan shed.
The incoming music director of the English National Opera (ENO) has said the company will keep taking risks in spite of funding cuts.
Britain is to temporarily close its embassy in the Libyan capital, Tripoli, because of worsening violence.
With the centenary of Britain joining the First World War approaching, communities around the country are preparing to mark the anniversary in their own way.