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Crew of China's Shenzhou-9 space mission

(Xinhua)

15:57, June 15, 2012

JIUQUAN, June 15 (Xinhua) -- Liu Yang, a 33-year-old former pilot, has been selected as China's first female astronaut, taking her place as one of three members of China's Shenzhou-9 spacecraft crew.

As the long-awaited threesome was unveiled on Friday, it was revealed that the crew also includes Jing Haipeng, who will become China's first astronaut to travel twice into space, when Shenzhou-9 is scheduled to take off at 6:37 p.m. Saturday.

All three crew members are former pilots of the People's Liberation Army (PLA). They are all members of the Communist Party of China.

Enlisted in the army in 1997, Liu was a veteran pilot with 1,680 hours of flying experience and the deputy head of a flight unit of the PLA's Air Force before being recruited into China's second batch of prospective astronauts in May 2010. She is now an air force major.

After two years of training that has shored up her astronautic skills and adaptability to the space environment, Liu excelled in testing and was selected in March this year as a candidate to crew the Shenzhou-9.

Jing, 46, was one of the three crew members who achieved success in 2009 aboard Shenzhou-7, China's third manned space mission and one which featured the country's first ever space walk.

Now a senior colonel, Jing joined the PLA in 1985 and has clocked 1,200 hours of safe flight time. He was selected to be one of the first group of Chinese astronauts in January 1998, and was among six astronauts trained in 2005 for the Shenzhou-6 mission.

The third astronaut, 43-year-old Liu Wang, joined the army in 1988 and is now a senior colonel. Having flown safely for 1,000 hours, the former pilot was selected to be trained as an astronaut in January 1998.

All three were chosen as candidates for the Shenzhou-9 flight in March 2012.

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