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Recruitment process for foreign astronauts due to start

By ZHAO LEI | | Updated: 2023-02-26 16:56
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China will soon start the selection and training process for foreign astronauts for joint flights to the country's Tiangong space station, according to a high-ranking space official.

Chen Shanguang, deputy chief planner of China's manned space programs, told China Central Television on Saturday multiple countries have expressed to China their wish to send their astronauts to the station.

"We will soon begin to select candidates from those nations for joint flights to our space station and they will be able to work with our astronauts to carry out science tasks in space," he said in a news program on the State broadcaster.

Once the candidates pass initial selection, they will come to China to receive systemic, extensive training to learn how to operate Chinese spacecraft and live and work inside the station.

"We also hope the foreign candidates could get some knowledge about Chinese culture because they will be on board a Chinese space station. Moreover, we hope cultural exchanges between foreign and Chinese astronauts will help with their flight," he said.

Pang Zhihao, an expert on space exploration technology and a renowned writer on human spaceflight, said on Sunday one of the most important criteria for the foreign candidates is their Chinese language skill.

"The work language on the International Space Station is English. Similarly, the language to be spoken inside a Chinese station is naturally Chinese," he said, echoing Chen's suggestion foreign astronauts should know about Chinese culture.

Chen is not the first Chinese space official who has spoken about sending foreigners to the Tiangong station. Before him, Yang Liwei, the first Chinese person in space who is now also a deputy chief planner of the country's manned spaceflights, and Hao Chun, head of the China Manned Space Agency, have said China is open to international cooperation on its space station including joint crewed flights.

Nie Haisheng, a senior astronaut and commander of the Shenzhou XII mission crew, also said he and his fellow Chinese astronauts look forward to having foreign peers on the Tiangong.

"We welcome our foreign counterparts, who we will treat as friends, to join us at this 'space home'. We are determined to make our station a shared platform to advance science and technology to benefit all people," he said in 2021.

In August 2017, Samantha Cristoforetti of Italy and Matthias Maurer of Germany, both from the European Space Agency, participated in a sea survival exercise in waters off the coastal city of Yantai, Shandong province, organized by the Astronaut Center of China. They were the first foreign astronauts to take part in spaceflight-related training in China.

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