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Starring role for China's first female astronaut

AFP - Getty Images

Chinese People's Liberation Army Air Force fighter pilot Liu Yang, left, together with her two male colleagues, Jing Haipeng, center, and Liu Wang, right, in their spacesuits as they pose for an official photo at the Jiuquan space base, in China's Gansu province. Picture taken on June 12, 2012 and made available on June 15.

Jason Lee / Reuters

Liu Yang answers a question during a news conference on June 15, 2012.

China will send its first woman into space Saturday along with two other astronauts for the nation's first crew-controlled docking with a temporary space station, taking a key step toward setting up a permanent base in orbit.

Liu Yang, a 34-year-old air force pilot, and two male colleagues will be launched Saturday aboard the Shenzhou 9 spacecraft, which will dock with the bus-sized Tiangong 1 space module now orbiting 213 miles above Earth. Read the full story.

NASA, ESA, CXC, JPL, Caltech and

See out-of-this-world views of a solar eclipse, the high points of a milestone space mission and other stunning cosmic images from May 2012.