China has begun the training of its first group of women astronauts by recruiting 35 future women pilots across the country this year, an officer with Aviation University of Chinese People's Liberation (PLA) Army Air Force said Wednesday in Changchun.
The female cadets of the University will become a reserve force of the Chinese women astronauts and they will be ready for space missions before 2010, the officer said.
China has scheduled to train them first to be women aviators and then some of them will be picked out and trained for future space voyages, he said.
The 35 cadets, who are China's 8th batch of women pilots, have been selected from among the more than 200,000 high school graduates this year across the country. Those newly-recruited female students, aged between 17 and 20, have not only achieved the best grades during the selection exams, but also behaved fairly good in the mental tests, the officer said.
Those 35 cadets will undertake both four years' study of college courses including culture, science and aviation theories, said the officer, and the training of flight skills, knowledge and expertise for space-based scientific experiments.
The University has earmarked more than 600,000 yuan (about 73, 171 US dollars) for the training of those newly-enrolled women aviators, the officer added.
Chinese women astronauts will soon be reaching for the stars along with their male counterparts, the Beijing-based China Daily reported earlier this week, quoting Hu Shixiang, deputy chief commander of China's Manned Space Program as saying. "They will embark on a space mission no later than 2010, working as flight commanders or on-board engineers," Hu said.
China became the third country in the world after the United States and the former Soviet Union to send a man into space when its first astronaut, Yang Liwei,was blasted off into space on China's maiden manned space flight in 2003.
China is one of the countries that has trained the most women pilots. Since China began to recruit woman pilots in 1951, more than 300 well-trained women pilots have joined the country's civil aviation and air forces.
Soviet Valentina Terechkova became the first woman astronaut in 1963, two years after Yuri Gagarin made the humankind's first space mission. Sally K. Ride was the first American woman, flying aboard space shuttle Challenger in 1983.