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In China, Female Astronauts Must Wait

As Chinaprepares for its second manned spaceflight, officials with the country's spaceagency say it will be a while before female Chinese astronauts reach orbit.

Accordingto Qi Faren, chief designer for China's manned spacecraft, there are not yetany female astronauts or pilots qualified to ride aboard a space-bound Shenzhouspacecraft, China's Xinhua News Agency reported.

Chineseastronaut candidates typically amass about 700 hours flying fighter planes toqualify for astronaut status, Xinhua stated.

"AlthoughChina has many women aviators now, none of them meet the minimumrequirement," Qi told Xinhua.

China wasthe third nation, after Russia and the U.S., to build a manned spacecraft andlaunch it into Earth orbit.

It tookRussia two years since launching the first human in space - cosmonaut YuriGagarin aboard Vostok 1 in April 1961 - to loft the first woman, cosmonautValentina Tereshkova, who flew aboard Vostok 6 in June 1963. In June of 1983,the first U.S. female astronaut, Sally Ride, launched spaceward aboard thespace shuttle Challenger 22 years after NASA launched its first human, AlanShepard, on a sub-orbital flight inside the Freedom 7 spacecraft in May 1961.

China'sfirst manned spaceflight, Shenzhou 5, launched and landed safely in October2003 with astronaut Yang Liwei at the helm during a 21-hour mission thatcircled the Earth 14 times. That flight will be followed by Shenzhou-6, afive-day mission manned by two astronauts, which is expected to launch thisfall, Qi said, adding that flight's spacecraft has already been assembled forastronaut training.

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Tariq Malik
Tariq Malik

Tariq is the Editor-in-Chief of Space.com and joined the team in 2001, first as an intern and staff writer, and later as an editor. He covers human spaceflight, exploration and space science, as well as skywatching and entertainment. He became Space.com's Managing Editor in 2009 and Editor-in-Chief in 2019. Before joining Space.com, Tariq was a staff reporter for The Los Angeles Times covering education and city beats in La Habra, Fullerton and Huntington Beach. He is also an Eagle Scout (yes, he has the Space Exploration merit badge) and went to Space Camp four times as a kid and a fifth time as an adult. He has journalism degrees from the University of Southern California and New York University. To see his latest project, you can follow Tariq on Twitter.