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China chooses first women astronauts
by Staff Writers
Beijing (AFP) March 10, 2010

File image.

China has selected its first two women astronauts to serve on a team that will undertake future missions launched by the nation's burgeoning space programme, state media reported Wednesday.

The women were part of a "second batch" of seven people who will take over manned space-flight duties from the nation's first generation of astronauts, Xinhua news agency quoted a former top space programme official as saying.

The two women, who were not named in the report, were both pilots in the People's Liberation Army (PLA) Air Force, said Zhang Jianqi, former deputy commander of the country's manned space programme.

China selected its first batch of 14 astronauts in the mid-1990s and has so far sent six of them into space.

China became the third nation to put a man in space in 2003, when astronaut Yang Liwei piloted the one-man Shenzhou-5 space mission. In September 2008, it launched a mission that conducted the country's first space walk.

Speaking on the sidelines of China's annual parliament session, Zhang was quoted saying the women astronauts were required to be married "as we believe married women are more physically and psychologically mature."

He also said women astronauts "theoretically enjoy advantages over their male counterparts in terms of endurance and circumspection."

China has sketched out ambitious future plans including more manned space missions, a space station, and an eventual manned lunar expedition sometime around 2020.

Xinhua report
China First Two Women Astronauts Selected
Beijing, China (XNA) Mar 11 - China has selected its second batch of astronauts, including five men and two women, the first time women have joined the country's space mission. The two women astronauts, both aero-transport pilots from the People's Liberation Army (PLA) Air Force, might take part in manned docking of China's future space lab, said Zhang Jianqi, former deputy commander of the country's manned space program. "In the selection, we had almost the same requirements on women candidates as those for men, but the only difference was that they must be married, as we believe married women would be more physically and psychologically mature," Zhang said on the sidelines of the annual parliamentary session. He said women astronauts theoretically enjoy advantages over their male counterparts in terms of endurance and circumspection. China selected its first batch of 14 astronauts in the middle 1990s. It has sent six astronauts into space since 2003, including astronaut Zhai Zhigang who carried out China's first outer space walk in September 2008. China plans to launch an unmanned space module in 2011, which is regarded as an essential step toward building a space station.


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