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China picks two female astronauts for space mission

(Shanghai Daily)

10:38, March 25, 2012

China has selected two female astronauts among seven candidates for its next manned space mission that will be launched between June and August.

Three Chinese astronauts, also known as taikonauts, will be chosen from the candidates to fly aboard the Shenzhou-9 spacecraft that will manually dock with Tiangong-1, an orbiting module of the country's planned space station, and conduct scientific experiments, said Li Wei, deputy designer for spacecraft systems with the China Aerospace and Technology Corporation.

The two female astronauts, whose identity will be released before the launch, were selected from 15 women who must be married and have given birth naturally, Space International magazine under the China Academy of Space Technology said Saturday. They also must have no scars nor body odor.

Pang Zhihao, deputy editor-in-chief of the magazine, said: "They even must not have decayed teeth because any small flaw might cause great trouble or a disaster in space."

Pang said a scar might open and start bleeding in space and the cramped conditions would intensify body odor.

Xu Xianrong, a professor with the General Hospital of the PLA Air Force, said the female astronauts must be married and have given birth naturally because that ensures their body and mental condition are mature enough.

Meanwhile, Pang said female astronauts tend to be more "keen and sensitive with better communication skills than their male counterparts."

He added women were also good at dealing with relationships with their space partners, which would be an important quality on a long mission such as a trip to Mars.

The former Soviet Union sent the world's first female astronaut, Valentina Vladimirovna Tereshkova, into space in 1963.

The seven candidates for the Shenzhou-9 were picked from fighter pilots. Another 45 astronauts, 15 female and 30 male, were selected as backups, Li said.

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