China / Society

Other female astronaut candidate ready to take off

By Wang Huazhong (China Daily) Updated: 2012-06-13 07:27

Wang Yaping had thought about becoming a doctor or a lawyer to make a normal living and "felt happy for every bit of improvement in life".

However, destiny led the 32-year-old Wang - born in a village known for growing cherries in Shandong province - to have flown four types of aircraft and soon possibly a spacecraft.

If selected, Wang will become the first Chinese female astronaut and will perform a docking mission between the Shenzhou IX spacecraft and an orbiting space lab module, the Tiangong-I.

"I'd never wildly wished I would become successful and famous someday. Neither had I thought about becoming an aviator," Wang once told a military recruiting official.

Wang was "talented in sports and seemed untiring", said her teacher, Wang Zhixing, according to a Beijing News report.

Her family's home is on the northern side of Zhanggezhuang village, which has 400 households, in Yantai, Shandong province.

The brick house is close to a hillside. Couplet scrolls are stuck on the gates of its courtyard. An old yellow plate on the gate reads "family of honor", which was granted to the family.

In the summer of 1997, Wang and her classmates took physical and psychological examinations for pilot recruitment.

Wang impressed the recruiter Cheng Xuezhe as appearing "smart, lively and eager to excel."

She passed the national college entrance examination in July that year and got admitted to a military aviation academy in Changchun.

Simultaneously, she also became one of the seventh group of the nation's female pilots - there are only 37 of them.

"Though I lost something that people at my age have, being a pilot gives me the most unique experience and feeling, which is flying in the blue sky," said Wang, whose husband is also a pilot.

In 1999, Wang moved to another aviation academy in Harbin to carry on her training. She made her first flight there and started sensing the "pride of being a woman pilot".

After finishing another two years of training with an excellent academic record, Wang began serving in the air force.

She received a bachelor's degree in military science and joined in rescue operations after the devastating earthquake in Sichuan in 2008.