China / People

Likely 1st Chinese woman in space keeps low profile

By An Baijie in Zhengzhou (China Daily) Updated: 2012-06-13 02:52

Liu Yang, one of the female candidates mostly likely to become an astronaut, has been described by her classmates and relatives as a quiet person who keeps a low profile.

Liu, 34, from the Wuhan Flight Unit, is widely believed to be the top contender to join the Shenzhou IX spacecraft docking mission with the Tiangong-1 space lab module in mid-June.

Liu's uncle Niu Zhenxi told China Daily on Tuesday that she has long set the example for children in her relatives' families since she was very devoted and obedient to her parents,

"We all believe that she could make a difference because she is good at overcoming various difficulties," he said.

Born in Zhengzhou, Henan province, Liu enrolled in a military aviation school in Changchun, capital of Jilin province after graduating from high school in 1997 and later became a pilot, according to a report from Xinhua News Agency.

The selection of female astronauts included a series of strict physical and psychological tests, Xinhua reported.

All of Liu's relatives felt proud after she was said to have been selected as a candidate astronaut, but Liu maintained a low profile, said her uncle.

"She has asked her parents not to speak to the news media about her mission," he said.

Wang Xufeng, one of Liu's high school classmates, said she was not talkative in high school but very friendly to the other classmates.

"I remember that she was a quiet girl who was shy to talk in public," Wang told China Daily. "She always smiled while talking with her friends, and I can still remember her sweet smile."

She was very diligent in her studies and always ranked in the top 10 of the class in exams, Wang said.

"Once she was depressed after an exam for having made a mistake. I tried to comfort her, but she said that it was unforgivable because she had made a similar mistake in the previous quiz," Wang said.

Apart from academic studies, Liu also developed after-class hobbies such as playing volleyball, according to Wang.

"She was not the nerdy kind of students who has no hobbies except for studying," he said. "I am proud of her and hope she becomes the first woman astronaut of our country."

Qin Feng, another high school classmate of Liu's, said that she "never made any mistakes in her studies".

"The perseverance of her character might be a result of the strict and ordered life of her family," Qin said.

Liu has the experience of dealing with emergencies. In September 2003, her plane encountered a group of birds shortly after takeoff, according to a report from PLA Daily.

The turbine blades of the right engine were destroyed and the windshield splattered with blood after it hit 18 pigeons. Liu finally managed to stabilize the plane and made a successful emergency landing several minutes later, the report said.

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