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China chooses first two women astronauts

Posted by 3citynewswire on 03/11/2010

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.

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