China may send women to space in 2012

May 1st, 2011 - 6:17 pm ICT by IANS  

Beijing, May 1 (IANS) Chinese women may fly to space as soon as next year, one of the country’s first astronauts and now in charge of the manned space programme has said.

Yang Liwei, deputy director of the China Manned Space Engineering Office, said that after the country’s first unmanned docking mission between space module Tiangong-1 and an unmanned spacecraft Shenzhou VIII to take place in 2011, two more spacecraft will blast off in 2012.

At least one of the two spacecraft in 2012 will be manned by two to three astronauts, Yang was quoted as saying by China Daily.

Fei Junlong, leader of the country’s astronaut team, said two women astronauts and five men astronauts - who were selected last year - would have to undergo a three-year training course before taking part in the space mission.

But Yang said there was a possibility for the women to join next year’s mission.

The two women astronauts are pilots from the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Air Force.

A total of 14 astronauts - all men - were recruited in the first batch in 1997. Yang and Fei were also among them. So far, six male astronauts have flown to space in three different missions.

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