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China Prepares To Select New Taikonauts

"In previous selections, physical constitution was very important," said Yang Liwei. "However, with the improvement of our spacecraft and better understanding of space flight after the manned space missions of Shenzhou V and Shenzhou VI, we now care more about the overall quality of astronauts.
by Staff Writers
Beijing, China (Xinhua) Jul 19, 2007
China's first taikonaut, or Chinese astronaut, in space Yang Liwei says the country is preparing to select a new intake of well-rounded and well-educated potential spacemen from its air force. China has a 14-strong astronaut team. Yang, one of the team and also deputy director of the China Astronaut Research and Training Center, said the number of new trainees will be no more than 14. "The preparation for the selection has begun, and the selection may begin soon, but we have no plans to select woman astronauts yet," said Yang.

China began to select the first group of astronauts in the 1990s for its manned space program. The criteria cover health, education and training. Thousands of candidates participated, but only 14 remained after all the tests.

However, the successful candidates cannot be called real astronauts before completing the training that can last three to four years.

"The first group of astronauts has been trained for more than 10 years," said Shen Xingyun, head of the astronaut team.

"I believe a good astronaut should be both physically and psychologically healthy, but also should have strong faith, a perfect mastery of technology and have a well-rounded character," said Shen.

"After the intense training, the 14 astronauts perform even better than before from the physical and technical point of view," said Yang.

"We will focus more in future training on expanding their knowledge and improving their communication skills, and their performances will be considered in choosing the crew for the Shenzhou VII mission in 2008 and later space missions," said Yang.

"In previous selections, physical constitution was very important," said Yang. "However, with the improvement of our spacecraft and better understanding of space flight after the manned space missions of Shenzhou V and Shenzhou VI, we now care more about the overall quality of astronauts.

"We have met many astronauts from other countries and realize an astronaut needs to know more besides astronautics, like natura land social sciences, because an astronaut will not only undertake space missions, but also social responsibilities, like popularizing space science," said Yang.

Yang's center has been working with the Aerospace School of the Beijing-based Tsinghua University since 2006 to provide master-degree training for the astronauts.

"New courses includes the Law of Space, the History of Aviation and others on astronomy and geography," said Yang.

In addition, the center has held courses on art and literature and government spokespersons, such as Qin Gang and Liu Jianchao from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, have been invited to pass on their skills on dealing with media and public.

China launched its manned space program in 1999 and it successfully launched astronaut Yang Liwei into orbit in 2003, becoming the third country after the Soviet Union and the United States to put a man in space.

Its second manned spacecraft, Shenzhou VI, was launched in October 2005 and completed a five-day flight with two astronauts Fei Junlong and Nie Haisheng carrying out space-based experiments.

Shenzhou VII is expected to carry three astronauts on its mission in 2008. Yang said astronauts would perform work outside the capsule such as installing equipment and "tightening screws."

Source: Xinhua News Agency

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Chinese Astronauts Begin Training For Spacewalk
Beijing, China (Xinhua) Jul 19, 2007
More than a year before China's third manned space mission, Chinese astronauts have begun training for their first spacewalk during the Shenzhou VII space flight mission. "As it's the first time that our astronauts will leave their capsule in space, the mission requires even higher physical, technical and psychological standards, so training is more intense than ever," said Yang Liwei, the first Chinese astronaut in space, who is also deputy director of the China Astronaut Research and Training Center.

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