China rules out sending female astronaut into space anytime soon
A leading Chinese space official on Wednesday ruled out sending a female astronaut into space in the foreseeable future, but vowed that the country would one day fly someone to the moon.
"In our country we advocate equality between men and women and we say that women hold up half the sky," National Space Administration chief Sun Laiyan told reporters.
"Training an astronaut takes time and there are physical conditions and other aspects to consider. We are thinking about this but it won't happen in the near future."
Chinese media reported earlier this year that China planned to send its first woman into orbit by 2010 and that officials at the space program would start recruiting female astronauts as early as next year.
China launched its first manned space flight in October last year, when astronaut Yang Liwei orbited the Earth 14 times.
The feat made China only the third country in the world after the United States and the former Soviet Union to send a man into space.
Sun said Yang was chosen mainly because of his physical strength but that in future, astronauts would need to be more qualified as engineers and scientists able to conduct experiments.
A second manned space mission is planned for next year.
"We'll send one or two astronauts, this will be determined in due course, but there won't be a female astronaut," he said.
He added that while China planned to launch its first unmanned lunar exploration craft before 2007, there were no current plans to explore Mars.
"There will be a day when a Chinese astronaut will be walking on the Moon. What other countries can do, we can do it too," Sun said.
Since China's space program was set up in 1992, it has grown to employ tens of thousands of scientific, manufacturing and planning personnel in more than 3,000 factories.
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