|President of the Sino-American
Aviation Heritage Foundation Jeffrey Greene (left) presents the Arthur
Chen award to China's first astronaut Yang Liwei in Beijing yesterday to
mark his contribution to china's manned space
BEIJING, July 26 -- Chinese women astronauts will
soon be reaching for the stars along with their male counterparts, an official
with China's space programme said last
They will embark on a space mission
no later than 2010, working as flight commanders or on-board engineers, Hu
Shixiang, deputy chief commander of China's Manned Space Programme, told China
The selection process, to formally start in 2006,
will choose at least four women astronauts, but will not necessarily favour
professional pilots, Hu said while attending a reception for three American
astronauts, who arrived in Beijing last week.
This year China's air force has selected around 30
women pilots, some of whom are reportedly intended to be future astronauts.
"It is true women aviators have some advantages in
terms of flight experience and physique, but we need payload experts with strong
science and engineering background to do experiments in outer space," he added.
That means China will focus on women with science and
education backgrounds when looking for candidates, Hu said.
The scenario contrasts with the selection of China's
first group of male astronauts, including Yang Liwei, who conducted China's
maiden manned space flight nearly two years ago. Yang and his 13 colleagues, all
former fighter pilots, are preparing for the country's second manned space
flight, scheduled for this autumn.
"The life support and environment control systems
of our launch vehicles and spacecraft will allow average people, who are
physically adequate and with some training, to fulfil space missions," Hu said.
In the near future, the norm will be for Chinese
astronauts, men and women, to work together as partners in journeys to outer
space, he said.
He did not specify what kind of missions they would
Astronaut Yang said "it is the norm" for countries to
include women in their space programme. He did not elaborate.
Zhang Qingwei, president of the China Aerospace
Science and Technology Corp, said that with the development of China's manned
space programme, the country will increase scientific research in orbit. Women
specializing in medicine, new materials, biology and other disciplines will all
have the chance to become astronauts.
Mae C Jemison, one of three visiting US astronauts,
told China Daily: "China should have women astronauts as soon as possible, even
earlier than next year, because you lose out on 50 per cent of the talent that
are available if you don't have women included."
Jemison, who beca me NASA's first black woman
astronaut in 1987, said she had full confidence in the talent of Chinese women,
not only in terms of operating space vehicles, but also in terms of designing
the vehicles and understanding how space research can be most beneficial.
Jeffrey B Greene, president of the Sino-American
Aviation Heritage Foundation, which hosted the US astronauts' China tour along
with the Chinese Society of Astronautics, yesterday said he hoped Chinese and
American crews would one day fly together in the same spacecraft for peaceful
The astronauts' tour, lasting until August 3, was
sponsored by the Du Pont China Co.
(Source: China Daily)