As China is set to send its first female astronaut into space this weekend, American women who have made the journey will be tracking her historic trip.
NASA, the US space agency, suffered as a result of its gender exclusion during the early years of space travel, said Howard McCurdy, a professor of public affairs at the American University in Washington, and the author of several books about space.
Pamela Melroy, a former astronaut and air force pilot who served both as pilot and commander on US space shuttle missions before retiring in 2009, pointed to China's requirement that its taikonauts be trained as military pilots. She said this ensures Liu Yang — the likelier of the two women to be on board the Shenzhou IX craft when it docks with the orbiting Tiangong-1 module — will be of a special breed.
"I feel a special kinship with her, because there are so few women pilots in space," Melroy said in an interview with China Daily. There have only been three American women pilots, all during the shuttle program; most female astronauts have been scientists and engineers.
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