Space Travel

Liu Yang is a Chinese military transport pilot and taikonaut who served as a crew member on the space mission Shenzhou 9. On 16 June 2012, Liu became the first Chinese woman in space.

Liu Yang: Breaking Barriers as the First Chinese Woman in Space

Liu Yang, the first Chinese woman to venture beyond Earth’s atmosphere, holds a significant place in the history of China’s space program. This groundbreaking achievement not only highlights women’s contributions to space exploration but also symbolizes the triumph of gender equality. In this article, we will explore Liu Yang’s remarkable journey, delve into her accomplishments, and discuss the impact of her historic achievement on the space industry and the empowerment of women worldwide.

Liu Yang - First Chinese Woman in Space
Liu Yang – First Chinese Woman in Space

Early Life and Education

Born on October 6, 1978, in Zhengzhou, China, Liu Yang developed a fascination for aviation and space exploration from an early age. She pursued her passion by enrolling at the Changchun University of Science and Technology, where she studied Aviation Engineering and graduated successfully in 2000. Liu’s exceptional academic performance and unwavering dedication laid the foundation for her subsequent career in the aerospace industry. Liu’s dedication and exceptional academic performance led her to join the People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) as a pilot.

Selection as a Taikonaut

In 2010, the Chinese space program announced its intention to send a female astronaut into space, opening the door for Liu Yang’s remarkable journey. As one of thousands of candidates, Liu underwent rigorous physical and psychological assessments to determine her suitability for space travel. Her impressive performance during the selection process secured her a spot in the final pool of candidates. In June 2012, Liu Yang achieved a significant milestone – she was chosen as part of the Shenzhou 9 crew, alongside Jing Haipeng and Liu Wang – a mission which aimed to dock their spacecraft with the orbiting Tiangong-1 space module.

Liu Yang - In Space Suit
Liu Yang – In Space Suit

The Shenzhou 9 Mission

On June 16, 2012, Liu Yang made history by becoming the first Chinese woman to travel to space as part of the Shenzhou 9 mission. The primary objective of this mission was to dock their spacecraft with the orbiting Tiangong-1 space module, marking a significant advancement in China’s space program. The successful completion of the mission showcased China’s capabilities in manned spaceflight and marked a pivotal moment for space exploration.

Shenzhou 9 crew
Shenzhou 9 crew – Left to Right: Liu Yang, Liu Wang and Jing Haipeng

During the Shenzhou 9 mission, Liu Yang played an active role in conducting experiments related to space physiology, life support systems, and material science. Her contributions provided valuable data and insights into understanding the challenges faced by humans in the harsh environment of space. By participating in important research activities, Liu demonstrated the critical role of astronauts in furthering scientific knowledge in space exploration.


Tiangong-1 was a Chinese space station that played a crucial role in China’s manned space program. Launched in 2011, it served as a testbed for docking and orbital rendezvous techniques. After completing its mission, Tiangong-1 reentered Earth’s atmosphere in April 2018, safely burning up during its controlled descent.

Tiangong-1 Chinese space station
Tiangong-1 – Chinese space station

Achievements and Impact

Liu Yang’s participation as the first Chinese woman in space garnered international attention and broke new ground in the field of space exploration. Her achievement was not only significant for China but also for women around the world. By breaking barriers and stereotypes, Liu Yang inspired young girls to dream big and pursue careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields.

Moreover, Liu Yang’s triumph highlighted the progress and inclusivity of the space industry. It demonstrated the importance of diverse perspectives, talents, and contributions in the pursuit of scientific advancements. Her success paved the way for other women and encouraged efforts to promote gender equality in various industries, including the traditionally male-dominated field of space exploration.

The impact of Liu Yang’s achievement is also seen in the continued growth and development of China’s space program. With her historic journey, Liu Yang played a key role in highlighting China’s capabilities and ambitions in manned spaceflight. Her success motivated the country to invest further in its space industry and continue pushing boundaries in exploration and scientific research.


Liu Yang’s journey as the first Chinese woman in space represents a landmark achievement in space exploration. Her groundbreaking accomplishment shattered gender barriers and inspired countless individuals worldwide. Liu’s legacy continues to encourage women in STEM fields and serves as a reminder of the importance of diversity and inclusion in scientific endeavors.


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