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China plans to train engineers to be astronauts

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Three Chinese astronauts, including the first female astronaut Liu Yang, ahead of their space mission in June 2012. A file photo

BEIJING (PTI): China plans to select space engineers as expectant astronauts, a senior space programme official has said.

China will finish the third round of astronaut selection in the next two years, said Huang Weifen, deputy chief designer of China's astronaut system.

"The current 21 Chinese astronauts were all former air force pilots," Huang said at the ongoing annual meeting of the Association of Space Explorers in Beijing on Saturday.

"During the third round of selection, we will try to select engineers from research departments of our space programme and give them proper trainings."

China's future astronauts are expected to work at a space station and fulfill more complicated tasks so they will have to have more comprehensive professional skills and meet higher physical and psychological requirements, she said.

Some astronauts might also be selected from medical workers, she said.

However, in the third round of selection, there will not be new female astronauts since two have been on active service, Huang said.

China plans to establish its first space station in 2022.

Its first space lab Tiangong-1, launched in September 2011, has docked twice with the manned spaceships, Shenzhou-9 with three astronauts onboard in June 2012, and Shenzhou-10 in June 2013 also with three astronauts onboard.

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