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Persistence put China's female astronaut into space and history books

Liu Yang and her husband Zhang Hua cook dinner at their home in Beijing in May

Publication Date : 19-06-2012

 

Liu Yang, daughter of a regular family in Henan province, grew up to be China's first woman astronaut with persistence and a clear goal.

Liu was born into a worker's family in Zhengzhou, capital city of Central China's Henan province, in 1978. As the only child, she was not spoiled by her parents but modest and obedient, relatives and neighbours frequently pointed out.

"When she was studying in high school, the factories where her parents worked had a bad performance, forcing her father to make money by repairing bicycles on the street," said Wang Huizhen, one of their neighbours in the community where they lived for 14 years.

"Though wearing simple clothes, she always had a bright smile to greet us and liked to play badminton with her father in the community yard," she said. "Though we haven't met for years, the deepest impression on me is her big smile when she was with her parents."

During her school years, she always received excellent grades thanks to her diligence.

"She sometimes would stand in front of the class to teach the others like a teacher," said Wang Xiuju, the teacher in charge of her class in middle school.

But when a flight company came to her school to recruit pilots, she was attracted by this mysterious career but disappointed to know it was only open to boys.

So when a military aviation school opened to girls, she immediately applied and was enrolled after her graduation from high school in 1997.

"It was my turning point," Liu Yang was quoted as saying by Beijing News on June 12.

But when her training began, she found the life was totally different from her expectations. She once wrote to her friends saying her happiness had gone, but their replies changed her mind.

"You are in a great position to embrace a wider sky and witness the beautiful scene in your life. Please cherish your opportunity," one letter read.

It made Liu change her view on the hard training, and she developed hobbies in her free time, such as learning the clarinet.

"When we first joined the army, we were told that women and men would not be treated differently. Female pilots can achieve the same goals as the male ones," she said in an exclusive interview in 2009. "I make it my principle."

Every morning, she would run for at least 5 kilometres in summer and winter to boost energy and health. "I still remember the first time when I ran 10 kilometres, like I could not breathe anymore."

She always said that physical strength and persistence are important during the training to become a qualified pilot.

As she said in an English contest, "Life never changes, but your view on life makes it beautiful".

 

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