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China Exclusive: China prepares to select new taikonauts
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21:56, July 18, 2007

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China''s first taikonaut, or Chinese astronaut, in space Yang Liwei says the country is preparing to select a new intake of well-rounded and well-educated potential spacemen from its air force.

China has a 14-strong astronaut team. Yang, one of the team and also deputy director of the China Astronaut Research and Training Center, said the number of new trainees will be no more than 14.

"The preparation for the selection has begun, and the selection may begin soon, but we have no plans to select woman astronauts yet," said Yang.

China began to select the first group of astronauts in the 1990s for its manned space program. The criteria cover health, education and training. Thousands of candidates participated, but only 14 remained after all the tests.

However, the successful candidates cannot be called real astronauts before completing the training that can last three to four years.

"The first group of astronauts has been trained for more than 10 years," said Shen Xingyun, head of the astronaut team.

"I believe a good astronaut should be both physically and psychologically healthy, but also should have strong faith, a perfect mastery of technology and have a well-rounded character," said Shen.

"After the intense training, the 14 astronauts perform even better than before from the physical and technical point of view," said Yang.

"We will focus more in future training on expanding their knowledge and improving their communication skills, and their performances will be considered in choosing the crew for the Shenzhou VII mission in 2008 and later space missions," said Yang.

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