On this day in history, June 18, 1983, Sally Ride was the first American woman to travel into space. See the recent post about Valentina Tereshkova, first woman in space, for her milestone mission on June 16, 1963.
劉洋 Liú Yáng - Wuhan Flight Unit
Since China chose June 16 for their first launch of a lady taikonaut this past weekend, all these grand feminine firsts have happened between June 16-18 over the past 49 years! Of course, we've since had the first French, British, Canadian, Indian and Korean women in space... and in no way would I detract from the accomplishments of those nations -- however, the size and scope of the space agency in China now are on par to compete with NASA and Roskosmos in a way that no other nation has. They are only the third nation to put a woman in orbit using their own hardware.
If all goes as planned with the mission over the next few days, China will be the third nation in human history to dock two space craft together in orbit, when the Shenzou-9 capsule connects to the Tiangong-1 space laboratory module; the mastery of such technology is crucial to testing China's ability to build their own full space station.
Chinese Long March 2F rocket launches Shenzhou-9
Is anyone in America watching? Because from what I can see of press conferences and media, the Chinese are riveted, hoping to be the next owners of an orbiting station, and the next to reach the surface of Earth's moon.
The mission has been widely reported, unsurprisingly, by CNTV and Xinhuanet, plus many Russian Channels, India and Al-Jazeera; however, in an odd, glaring lack of video or hosted-spoken coverage, the mission was only briefly referred to, and mostly in print, by CNN, FOX and MSBNC.
Liu Wang, Jing Haipeng & Liu Yang, moments after rocket separation
Once the BBC picked up the story, it spread to more news outlets, but the better places to get more than passing details are in the smaller, more dense space publications who specialize in the details craved by nerds. Over the larger media chains, I recommend:
- Spaceflight 101 : Shenzou-9 Mission Updates (best detail here)
- Space Daily : Mission News including selections and preparations
- SPACE.com : Cool mission infographic
- SpaceRef : Diagram of intended future Chinese Space Station
Try to keep up, Earthlings! We have a new and serious player among the space-faring nations!