12 Things To Know About Liu Yang, China’s First Female Astronaut

She wasn’t allowed to have scars or bad teeth — and she’s a famed fighter pilot.

1. She is a “taikonaut,” which is what China’s English-speaking media calls Chinese astronauts.

Uncredited / AP

She’s joining the crew of the Shenzhou-9, blasting off this Saturday.

2. She’s from Henan, a high-density, low-income province of China.

Sunny Henan.

3. She used to be a fighter pilot.

At 18, shortly after graduating high school, Yang applied to join the People’s Liberation Army. Since then, she’s logged 1,680 hours of flight for the PLA and has earned the ranks of major and deputy head of a flight unit.

4. She’s well-regarded in China for her courage.

She’s famous for safely landing her fighter jet after a collision with a flock of 18 pigeons left her window covered in blood. China Daily called her a “hero pilot.”

5. She also won first place in a military speech contest in 2010.

She’s often described by Chinese media as an eloquent speaker. She’s also fluent in English.

6. She was selected out of 21 female pilots with similar service records.

Government officials began the selection process in 2009. In March 2010, they narrowed down the search to two women. Two years later, they announced their choice. (Her competitor, Wang Yaping, is pictured on the left.)

7. To become a taikonaut, Yang had to be a married mother.

This is due to concerns that space travel impacts a woman’s fertility.

8. She could also have no scars, bad breath or tooth decay.

According to the newspaper of the Shaanxi Province Communist Party committee.

9. On board, she will be in charge of medical experiments.

Here, with her two male co-taikonauts.

10. She will also help test space equipment designed for women.

It’s all part of China’s ongoing mission to build an orbiting station.

11. So far, she’s exceeded the expectations of her male counterparts.

“Despite starting her training late, she is now on the same page as us,” Cmdr. Jing Haipeng (middle) told the Global Times.

12. Yet despite her making history, the media can’t seem to get her age right.

Is she 33? 34? No, she’s 33. Or is it 34?

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