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Nation to train women astronauts
Updated: 2005-10-16 08:57

China is developing selection criteria for women astronauts, media reports said, following the launch of its second manned mission.

An air force university was already accepting pilot trainees, Xinhua news agency said.

"Experts say the country's first group of female fighter pilots may emerge from them, including the first female Chinese astronaut," it said, offering new meaning to Chairman Mao Zedong's remark that women hold up half the sky.

Shenzhou 6 is slated to land on Monday morning about 150 km north of Hohhot, the capital of Inner Mongolia.

Its two astronauts, Fei Junlong and Nie Haisheng, lifted off on Wednesday morning for a five day flight but have supplies for seven days in case the weather is uncooperative, Xinhua said.

Studies of the effect of space flight on women had begun, Xinhua news agency cited Chen Shanguang, director of the China Astronaut Research and Training Centre as saying.

Chinese researchers would have to make extensive studies, such as developing new space suits, Xinhua said.

The United States routinely includes women in its space crews.

Shuttles Challenger and Columbia each had two female astronauts aboard during their final, fatal missions.

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