Chinese Air Force Major Liu Yang made history on June 16, 2012, when she became her country’s first female astronaut to blast off into outer space.
A native of Henan Province, Liu was recruited into the People's Liberation Army (PLA) Air Force in 1997 and trained in the Changchun Flight Academy as a pilot. After graduation in 2001, she served in the PLAAF 13th Air Division as a cargo plane pilot. During her service, she was qualified on four aircraft types. Now a veteran pilot with more than 1,680 hours of flying experience, she is deputy head of a flight unit, holding the PLAAF rank of major.
She was recruited as a prospective astronaut in May 2010. During two years of astronaut training, Liu excelled in testing before being confirmed as one of six candidates shortlisted for the Shenzhou-9 spacecraft mission in early 2012.
Liu was ultimately selected for the crew, the first manned mission to the Chinese space station Tiangong 1, along with commander and veteran astronaut Jing Haipeng and crew mate Liu Wang. The mission included both remote control and piloted dockings with the module and medical monitoring of the astronauts as part of preparations for manning a permanent space station. Liu was in charge of the mission’s medical experiments.
In addition to her piloting skills and leadership qualities, Liu has also received accolades for her public speaking, winning first place in a military speech contest in 2010.