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New Chinese astronauts trains for space missions

Chinese artist concept of a Shenzhou in orbit above Earth

BEIJING (PTI): China's space training centre is training seven newly-recruited astronauts, including two women to conduct scientific experiments in upcoming missions.

According to the People's Liberation Army Daily, the China Astronaut Research and Training Centre has launched basic training courses for manned space missions for the new recruits - five males and two females.

The new recruits, selected by the PLA's General Armament Department, are all duty pilots, married, and hold bachelor's degrees.

The eldest is 35 and the youngest 30, Xinhua reported today. The male candidates were previously fighter pilots and the women were transport plane pilots.

They have on average logged 1,270.7 hours of flight time. According to Major General Yang Liwei, China's first astronaut who was sent into space in 2003, the new recruits will join other astronauts in the training programme and take on more difficult tasks as their mission will be tougher than previous ones.

There will be no major difference in training for the male and female astronauts, Yang added.

Located in Beijing's northwest outskirts, the centre is the only facility to train China's handful of astronauts in a zero-gravity-simulating environment.

During China's last space mission, Shenzhou VII in 2008, three astronauts orbited the earth for two days and 20 hours and astronaut Zhai Zhigang performed a space-walk, the first by a Chinese national.

In the Shenzhou VIII mission, China will send an unmanned module to be used as part of the country's manned space-station.

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