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First Chinese Woman Boosted Into Space

Part Of A Crew Of Three Which Launched Saturday In Space-Docking Attempt

One of the crew which will attempt China's first docking between two spacecraft in orbit is also that country's first woman in space. 33-year-old Air Force Major Liu Yang was aboard the Schenzhou-9 spacecraft when it lifted off form the Jiuquan Launch Center in the northwestern Gobi Desert.

The launch, which took place Saturday evening, went according to plan. The Wall Street Journal reports that the docking attempt will come some time this week. China has embarked on an ambitious plan to develop its own space station, which it hopes to have completed in 2020. That's about the time the ISS is expected to be retired.

Ms. Liu said she was "honored to fly into space on behalf of hundreds of millions of Chinese females," prior to her launch.

While China insists that its space program is intended only for peaceful civilian purposes, U.S. officials and others say that there is a lack of transparency to the Chinese program. Analysts have said that there are apparently military applications of the technologies being developed by the Chinese space program. Their concerns range from the possible disruption of communications to more precise tracking of U.S. military ships.

FMI: www.state.gov, www.dod.mil

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