Beijing, June 16 (IANS) Liu Yang, a former Chinese air force pilot, became the country's first female astronaut Saturday evening as she along with two male colleagues blasted off into space aboard the Shenzhou IX spacecraft.
The spacecraft blasted off at 6.37 p.m. from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Centre.
The 33-year-old Liu Yang is one of China's two women reserve astronauts. She is being accompanied in her space journey by Jing Haipeng, a veteran astronaut who was in the three-day Shenzhou VII mission in 2008, and Liu Wang, a new face to the public, China Daily reported.
Liu Yang was a People's Liberation Army Air Force pilot with 1,680 hours of flying experience and deputy head of a military flight unit before being recruited as an astronaut candidate in May 2010. She received two years of training, which shored up her astronautic skills and adaptability to space environment.
She excelled in testing and was selected this March as a candidate for the Shenzhou-9 manned space mission.
Over 50 women astronauts from seven countries have gone into the space till date. The longest space flight by female astronauts lasted 188 days.
The three Chinese astronauts will carry out the country's first manned space docking mission, an important step in the lead-up to building a space station by 2020.