China starts recruiting women astronauts
China, which sent its first man into space last year, will begin scouting for women astronauts in 2005, the Xinhua news agency said on Wednesday.
China would scour high schools for candidates to be the country's first woman in space, it quoted Huang Chunping, director of the manned space program's carrier rocket system, as saying.
The women would first be trained to pilot aircraft, then spacecraft, Huang said. He gave no details.
Huang also confirmed plans, announced earlier in state media, to launch China's second manned spaceflight in the second half of 2005 on a five-day mission with two astronauts.
Preparations for the launch of that craft, dubbed Shenzhou VI, were "smoothly under way," Huang said.
A third flight, Shenzhou VII, aimed to have an astronaut perform a spacewalk, Huang said. Media reports say the first woman astronaut would likely ride the Shenzhou VII.
China also hoped to build a space lab by 2010 and a space station by 2015, Huang said without elaborating.
Last October, China became the third nation to put a man in space when solo astronaut Yang Liwei circled Earth 14 times during a 21-hour trip in Shenzhou V, a name that means "Divine Ship."
A team of 14 trained astronauts, including Yang, have been paired up to train for the next mission, state media have said.