Liu Yang

Biography of Chinese astronaut and fighter pilot Liu Yang; commander and deputy director of a flight unit.

In June 2012, at the age of 33, she became the first woman from China to reach outer space.

Click here if you want to see this biography in Spanish translation

The first women to travel into space

Chinese astronauts are called taikonauts. Soviet astronauts are called cosmonauts.

So, in this biography, we will say that Liu Yang is a taikonaut.

The first woman in the world to go into outer space was Valentina Tereshkova, in 1963 and at the age of 26.

The first American who traveled to space was Sally Ride, in 1983, at the age of 32.

The Soviet Union sent the first astronaut into space in 1963. Forty-nine years later, a Chinese woman managed to accomplish a similar feat.

In 1948, Svetlana Savistkaya was born in the Soviet Union, who was a combat aviator and who traveled into space in 1982.

Liu Yang’s life in China

Liu Yang was born in China 30 years after Svetlana Savistkaya, in 1978; and she also traveled to space 30 years after Svetlana. Curious!

Out of 500 million Chinese women, Liu Yang was chosen to be China’s first space heroine.

Liu Yang
Liu Yang at the Satellite Launch Center. Credit: web sonbuenasnoticias.com

Liu Yang was born on October 6, 1978, at the Zhengzhou University Hospital.

She had no siblings and lived in Beijing with her parents. These were workers from the central province of Henan, an agricultural region.

Liu Yang’s preparation to be an astronaut

When Liu Yang finished high school, one of her teachers persuaded her to join the People’s Liberation Army Air Force.

She did so and, by 1997, she had already logged 1,680 flight hours.

She graduated from the Aviation University of the Chinese Air Force.

She classified as a pilot and became deputy chief of a flight unit, with the rank of Major.

In addition to her skill as a pilot, Liu Yang’s superiors praised her displays of courage and composure under difficult circumstances.

It is very likely that if Liu Yang had lived in the 1930s, she would have wanted to emulate the intrepid American aviator Amelia Earhart.

During her training, Liu Yang won first place in a military speech contest.

A good speaker, she was someone very appreciable to become a taikonaut. The regime would need to “sell well” to the press its heroin.

Liu Yang was selected to be an astronaut

In time, Liu Yang got married. A circumstance appreciated also in the requirements of China’s space program.

In February 2015, Liu Yang was confirmed to have given birth, but no further information about her son was provided.

The technological roots of the People’s Republic of China space program go back to the late 1950s.

In those years, China began to develop a ballistic missile program.

The program for the first Chinese manned space flight began several decades later. This happened well into the 21st century, with an accelerated program of technological development.

The first successful flight was made in 2003, with the taikonaut Yang Liwei aboard the Shenzhou ship. The term Shenzhou means “Holy Ship“.

In May 2010, Liu Yang was recruited as a pilot in China’s select group of future astronauts or taikonauts.

After two years of arduous training, she excelled in the tough selection tests. She was a candidate to man the Shenzhou-9 spacecraft.

Liu Yang traveled to space with two companions

Liu Yang had two crewmates: Jing Haipeng (had already traveled once) Liu Wang.

Liu Yang
Liu Yang and her 2 companions. Credit: wikipedia

The news quickly became the most popular on Chinese Twitter, with 33 million posts.

One user wrote: “Liu Yang, on the eve of becoming our first woman in space, is the pride of Henan.”

The Chinese Satellite Launch Center is located in the Gobi desert, in a place called Jiuquan.

The Shenzhou-9 spacecraft arrived at the Chinese Satellite Launch Center on April 9, 2012.

A month later, on May 9, 2012, the launch carrier rocket arrived there.

Graphic composition of the launch of the Chinese ship from the Gobi desert. Credit: Spanish CRI. China International Radio.

The manned spacecraft of the Shenzhou-9 program was launched into space on June 16, 2012.

This ship carried the first female taikonaut on board: Liu Yang.

Objectives of Chinese space travel

The objectives of Shenzhou-9, during the 14 days of the mission, consisted of:

  • a) conduct the first manned docking of a spacecraft with the Chinese space station;
  • b) take spacewalks;
  • c) conduct medical experiments in the space module; and
  • d) test space station technology.
Diagram
Diagram of the docking of the Shenzhou-9 spacecraft with the Chinese Space Station. Credit: Wikipedia

The landing, muffled by the firing of four solid-fuel rockets, one meter above the ground, was somewhat violent, although within the margins of the system.

Liu Yang
Happy landing of the spaceship that brought Liu Yang back to earth. Credit: web danielmarin.nauka.com

The spokeswoman for China’s manned space program said: “Having Liu Yang on board will not only help to verify the effectiveness of space equipment designed for women, but will also expand the social impact of human space missions.”

Echoing a famous Chinese proverb, the spokeswoman added: “Women hold up half the sky. Human space missions without women are incomplete.

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