China sends first woman into space
Bye: China's first female astronaut Liu Yang waves during a sending off ceremony as she departs for the Shenzhou 9 spacecraft rocket launch pad at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in Jiuquan, China, Saturday. China will send its first woman and two other astronauts into space Saturday to work on a temporary space station for about a week, in a key step toward becoming only the third nation to set up a permanent base in orbit. (AP/Ng Han Guan)China has launched its most ambitious space mission yet in which its first female astronaut and two male colleagues are to attempt to dock with an orbiting module.
The Shenzhou 9 capsule lifted off as scheduled at 6:37 p.m. (1237 GMT) on Saturday evening from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center on the edge of the Gobi Desert.
Female astronaut Liu Yang, 33, and two male crew members — veteran astronaut Jing Haipeng and newcomer Liu Wang — are to dock the spacecraft with a prototype space lab launched last year in a key step toward building a permanent space station. They are to work there for about a week.
China first launched a man into space in 2003 followed by a two-man mission in 2005 and a three-man trip in 2008.