Sources in China have confirmed the identity of one of the two female Air Force pilots currently vying to become China’s first woman in space. Captain Wang Yaping, 32, a Transport Pilot in the People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF), and another currently unidentified colleague were selected in March, from a pool of fifteen female candidates, and joined five male jet fighter pilots to form China’s second taikonaut group.
Chinese Female Taikonaut Candidate:
Wang had been widely identified in the Chinese media as one of five pilots from the province of Shandong included in the group of fifteen female candidates, but Chinese space officials had refused to name any of the seven new taikonauts actually chosen, even though the names of their fourteen colleagues, selected in 1996 and 1998 are widely known.
However sources in China, close to the Chinese manned space programme, have recently confirmed that Wang is now being trained at the Chinese Astronaut Training Centre, near Beijing, with another woman pilot.
Captain Wang was born in the prefecture of Yantai, in Shandong province, in April 1978. Her mother and father are farmers and she is reported to have two sisters. She is married to another PLAAF pilot, Zhao Peng, and probably has a child, as Chinese officials have previously said that only women who have already given birth would be considered for the taikonaut programme.
There are relatively few female pilots in the PLAAF, and as a result their career progress and any notable exploits are often reported in the Chinese media, and Captain Wang has featured in a number of such stories. She is known to have joined the PLAAF as a cadet in 1997, one of 37 members of the so called ‘7th Generation’ of female pilots, and graduated from Aviation University and flight school in 2001 with the rank of First Lieutenant.
In 2008, she was one of six female pilots who took part in relief flights after a major earthquake in Sichuan Province and later that year, she was reported to have been involved in flights related to cloud seeding and weather modification for the Olympic Games in Beijing. She has over 1100 flying hours on her log book.
Whilst China has not given a official details of when it intends to send Captain Wang, or her unidentified colleague into space, several statements from leading officials, including Yang Liwei, the first Chinese in space, strongly suggest that they are aiming for the two or three person, Shenzhou 10 mission, currently planned to dock with the Tiangong 1 orbital module in late 2012.
(Photo from fyjs.cn)