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China to send woman into space(08/03/04)

    China will recruit women astronauts for its space voyage thanks to the lobbying of the country's leading women's organization, sources said on March 7.

    Gu Xiulian, president of the All-China Women's Federation (ACWF), on March 6 told a gathering that she put forward the proposal that women should also be trained for space missions after China'smaiden manned space trip last October, and it has been accepted bythe central authorities, Beijing Youth Daily reported.

    ACWF source close to Gu, also vice chairwoman of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress, the Chinese parliament, confirmed the report.

    But the plan to recruit and train the country's female astronauts has yet to be worked out, despite the approval by the cental authorities, according to sources close to the department in charge of China's astronaut training programs.

    A high-ranking woman official with Beijing-based Space Medical Engineering Institute, which is responsible for training astronauts, said designers of spaceship will have to make minor changes to the facilities inside the ship to accommodate woman astronauts.

    China joined Russia and the United States in the elite club of manned spaceflight last October as the homemade Shenzhou-5 spacecraft, piloted by Yang Liwei, a former fighter pilot of the People's Liberation Army (PLA) air force, orbited Earth 14 times and returned safely.

    Women's liberation movement in China was given a big boost following the Communist Party of China took over and founded New China in 1949.

Yang Liwei, China's first astronaut who has travelled in the space on board Shenzhou-5.(Xinhua File Photo)

    Mao Zedong, founder of the country and the Party, lauded China's women as "being capable of holding up half the sky" and almost all sectors are open to women in China.

    China began to recruit woman pilots from 1951, and hundreds of women pilots it trained have joined the country's civil aviation and air force since then.

    Yue Cuixi, 55, became China's first woman air force pilot, who received a military rank as a major general in 2003.

    Yue, also deputy chief of staff of the air fore of the Guangzhou Military Area Command, has been a pilot for 36 years.

    Valentina Tereshkova of the Soviet Union became the first womanastronaut in the world as she was rocketed into space on June 16, 1963.

 


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