China to recruit women astronauts

Agence France Presse

Beijing, March 12:

China plans to recruit women astronauts next year for future space voyages with preparations in full swing for the next two manned missions, state media said today.

Candidates are expected to be selected from not only mainland China but Hong Kong and Macau, a senior space official told Xinhua. Hu Shixiang, deputy chief commander of China’s Manned Space Programme, said even though China’s pool of available astronauts were all highly trained men, it was possible to have less trained women on missions.

Physical requirements for astronauts have been lowered due to the increased maturity of China’s rocket and spaceship technology following successful flights involving five spaceships since 1999, Hu said. “Healthy common people can become astronauts for space missions after specialised training thanks to China’s improved space training skills and, women, of course, will be included,” Hu said. “Our selection of woman astronauts will not merely be a symbolic, image project.”

China became only the third country in the world to send a man into space last October, joining Russia and the United States. Hu said China is now manufacturing Shenzhou VI.