by a Thinker, Sailor, Blogger, Irreverent Guy from Madras

Long March for Chinese female Astronaut Liu Yang

In a few hours from now, at 16:07 IST (10:37 UTC) China is all set to launch its 4th manned mission carrying its first female astronaut to space.  A Chinese Changzeng 2F, literally ‘Long March’ rocket will carry a crew of 3 astronauts to the Chinese orbiting Tiangong 1, literally ‘Heavenly Palace’ space lab.

The space craft which will carry the 3 astronauts to the Tiangong is called Shenzhou 9, literally ‘Divine Craft’ and is the China’s first attempt to ship supplies and personnel from Earth to the orbiting module.  The Chinese have planned an additional manual docking between the Shenzhou 9 spacecraft and the orbiting space lab module Tiangong-1 after the automatic docking.

A successful manual docking will indicate that China grasps space rendezvous and docking technologies. It will be a significant step in the country's three-phase manned space program and a showcase the Chinese adoption of the Soviet/Russian Soyuz technology as their own [].

Of more interest to us is Liu Yang, 33, a major in the Chinese PLAAF and the first Chinese female astronaut apart from  Jing Haipeng, who will become China's first astronaut to travel twice into space. After two years of training, Liu Yang has been selected in March 2012 to crew the Shenzhou 9.

Unlike the Americans who used splash down on the sea, the Chinese Shenzhous are designed to touchdown on land, usually in inner Mongolia.  But whether it is a ‘splash’ or  a ‘bump’ down, the space crafts will deploy parachutes to slow down their descent prior to touchdown.

Which reminds me of an old joke.  The joke is definitely politically incorrect, can perhaps be called NSFW, though I heard it first (and repeated it, to my parents even) while I was in 5th or 6th standard.  To understand the joke you’ve to know a little bit of Tamil.  That’s why it was a surprise to hear the same joke years later on board the ships.

It appears that every Indian sailor who is a non-Tamil has heard this joke, appreciated it and is spurred on to crack it when he sails with a Tamil.  The nuance of the joke lies in splitting the word ‘parachute’ into 2 near sounding Tamil words.

Update: Joke removed due to popular ‘request’, well who am I fooling?, due to popular ‘disgust’.  You just have to Google for it.
BTP, I don’t know where the Chinese got to look at Liu Yang and comment that Liu isn’t as good looking as Western female astronauts [].  To my eyes she is as good looking as any of them - if not more! 

(image courtesy China Daily)

No amount of jingo-juice will make me admit that the two Indian (origin) NASA astronauts - Kalpana Chawla and Sunita Williams are better looking than Liu - What do you think?

(image courtesy NASA)

Update: China successfully launched its 1st woman Liu Yang into space in the evening.

Update: (19 Jun 2012) Chinese astronauts complete successful automatic and manual docking procedure of Shenzhou 9 with Tiangong 1.


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