CAIXIN MEDIA / SINA NEWS (China) CHINA TIMES (Taiwan)
BEIJING - China officialy has its first female taikonaut, as "astronaut" is called in Chinese. Liu Yang (below) will be on board for Saturday's launching of the Shenzhou 9 spacecraft, scheduled for 18:37 local time, Chinese official media have confirmed.
Liu, a native of Henan province, was one of two female candidates who had been chosen to train for the mission, and was eventually selected for the honor over Wang Yaping. Both women are pilots with China's national Air Force, and have participated in numerous combat readiness exercises. Both were born in 1978 and are married with one child, Caixin Media reports.
"The criteria for female astronaut selection are similar to those of the male astronauts, including factors such as physical fitness, flight experience and mental readiness.", said Zhang Jianqi, former Deputy Commander of China's manned space program, Sina News reports. "The only difference is that married women are favored. In general, they must be 25 years old and already have children. This is to ensure that they are physically and psychologically mature."
According to Chinese media, the physical selection for a female taikonaut was particularly rigourous. Flawless teeth are required, and foot calluses or scars are not tolerated. Nor should they have bad breath or body odor. "In space, the tiniest flaw could lead to trouble or even turn into a catastrophe. Hash conditions may cause scars to bleed, while the closed compartment will aggravate any body odor or bad smell", according to Zhang Jianqi.