China deploys its first women astronauts

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New Delhi, May 8 (ANI): China has for the first time, included two women in its new seven-member astronaut crew. Though no names were disclosed, authorities did reveal that the new entrants were aged between 30-35 years, are married and are college graduates.

The five men are fighter pilots, while the two women fly transport aircraft for the Chinese air force. On average, they have 1,270 hours of flight time each. All of the astronauts are strong physically and psychologically, the release said.

"China is expected to test its docking technology in the next few years and the seven new astronauts are selected for these new tasks," China Daily quoted Chen Shanguang, director of the Astronaut Center of China as saying.

China is expected to launch an unmanned space module - Tiangong 1 - in the first half of 2011, according to Xinhua News Agency.

The Shenzhou 8 spacecraft will be launched in the second half of 2011 to carry out the nation's first space docking, followed by the Shenzhou 9 and Shenzhou 10, which will be launched in 2012 to dock with Tiangong 1.

The two women will likely be trained to become pilots of the spacecraft, said Chen, without specifying the time frame.

Sui Guosheng, the air force officer in charge of recruitment, told Guangzhou-based Nanfang Weekly last July that those chosen to join the astronaut program will undergo between two and three years of training, and the first female astronaut could complete her journey into space by 2012. (ANI)

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