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Following the successful piloted flight of Shenzhou 5 in October 2003, China announced plans to send a woman into space as well. Gu Xiulian, president of the All-China Women's Federation (ACWF), told a gathering that she proposed that women, too, should be trained for space missions after China's first piloted space trip.
On June 16, 2012, Major Liu Yang was the first female astronaut launched into space aboard the Shenzhou 9 with two male counterparts. Liu was not drawn from the fighter pilot cadre, but instead is a veteran PLAAF transport pilot. The mission took off at 6:37 p.m. (1237 GMT) from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center on the edge of the Gobi Desert.