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China may send woman astronaut for 1st space docking mission


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BEIJING (PTI): China, which is yet to take a decision on a three-member crew for its first manned space docking mission this year, Monday said that it may include a woman astronaut in the team.

Authorities have completed the initial selection of crew members for China's first manned space docking mission and the roster includes woman astronauts, an official with the country's manned space programme said.

But the final three-person crew will be decided "on the very last condition" of the team of astronauts of both sexes currently undergoing training, Niu Hongguang, deputy commander -in-chief of the country's manned space programme and deputy head of General Armament Department of the Chinese People's Liberation Army, was quoted as saying by state-run Xinhua news agency.

The manned spacecraft Shenzhou-9 will take its crew members to board the Tiangong-1 space module lab, which was launched in September last year and completed the country's first space docking with the unmanned Shenzhou-8 spacecraft in November.

The selected astronauts are in training at the moment, Niu said on the sidelines of the annual Parliamentary session.

Assembly on the Shenzhou-9 and its carrier rocket, the Long March-2F, has been completed, and the manned space docking is due between June and August this year, he said.

"The perfect docking between Shenzhou-8 and Tiangong-1 has laid the perfect foundation for the manned docking this year," Niu said, noting that the manned docking will feature brand new technology.

Tiangong-1, or Heavenly Palace-1, has been orbiting normally for more than 160 days, and is capable of docking with Shenzhou-9 and accommodating astronauts, he said.

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