China mulls sending female astronauts into space

October 31st, 2011 - 4:57 pm ICT by IANS  

Beijing, Oct 31 (IANS) China is considering sending female astronauts into space during its space docking missions next year, a chief designer for the astronaut programme said Monday.

Two female astronauts have been selected for possible flights when spacecraft Shenzhou-9 and -10 are scheduled to dock with space lab module Tiangong-1 in 2012, said Chen Shanguang, director of the Astronaut Center of China (ACC).

“We must assess both male and female astronauts to verify if human beings can live in space as there are huge differences between men and women in spite of their common generalities,” Xinhua quoted Chen as saying.

“Space exploration activities would be incomplete without the participation of female astronauts,” Chen said.

Chen did not disclose the names of the two female astronauts, but said both of them are married and around 30 years old.

China’s manned space programme spokeswoman Wu Ping said at a Monday press briefing that at least one of the two missions will be manned.

Wu said nine crew members have already been selected for the two space docking missions in 2012 and are being trained in manual docking skills.

Chen said the seven male crew members are from the country’s first batch of 14 astronauts, which includes Yang Liwei, China’s first astronaut in space in 2003.

The two female astronauts are from the second batch of astronauts from late 2009 and early 2010, according to Chen.

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