June 13, 2012

Two Female Candidates Considered For Historic Chinese Spaceflight

John Neumann for redOrbit.com

China is readying a spaceflight that will feature the country´s first female in orbit, writes Tania Branigan for The Guardian. The decision will be decided soon as to which of two candidates will be allowed into orbit.

The first of the two candidates is Major Liu Yang, from Henan. Hailed as a “hero pilot”, who achieved notoriety after a successful emergency aircraft landing in which a dramatic bird strike incident spattered the windshield of her plane with blood.

The second in consideration is Captain Wang Yaping, from Shandong. She is said to have flown rescue missions during the Sichuan earthquake and piloted a cloud-seeding plane to help clear the skies of rain for the Beijing Olympics in 2008.

They are selected as members of the first batch of female astronauts in China because of their excellent flight skills and psychological quality, said Xinhua.

This month´s mission is regarded as an important stage in China´s ambitious space program. “The Shenzhou-9 will perform our country´s first manned space docking mission with the orbiting Tiangong-1 space lab module,” said  Zhou Jianping, chief designer of the manned space program.

“It means China´s spacecraft will become a genuine manned shuttle tool between space and Earth. It can send human beings to space stations or space labs. This will be a significant step in China´s manned space flight history.”

Both the women are in their 30s and have one child. Chinese authorities have decreed that only mothers can train as astronauts, due to a concern that spaceflight might affect women´s fertility. Earlier this year, the deputy editor-in-chief of an official magazine said women astronauts should also have no scars, which might open and bleed in space, nor have any body odor.

“They even must not have decayed teeth because any small flaw might cause great trouble or a disaster in space,” said Pan Zhihao of Space International, published by the China Academy of Space Technology.

Zhihao also told China Daily that female astronauts tend to be more “keen and sensitive with better communication skills than their male counterparts”.

China will be only the eighth country to see one of its female citizens go into space, and only the third to put one there itself. Valentina Tereshkova of the Soviet Union became the first woman to go into space in 1963.