You might say, these people have the Right Stuff.
Eighteen standby astronauts, including one female, have been selected from elite active pilots serving in the People’s Liberation Army Air Force and other sectors for the country’s upcoming manned space flight project.
The 18 include seven pilots, seven engineers and four payload specialists. The latter two are selected for the first time into China’s astronaut team in order to meet the requirements of the construction of China’s newest space station, Tiangong-3 (Heavenly palace), The Global Times reported.
Pilots and engineers will be in charge of operating and managing the spacecraft and conducting technical experiments. The load experts will be responsible for on-orbit operation of scientific experimental payload.
While pilots are selected from the PLAAF, engineers are elected from engineering technicians in aerospace or related areas. Load specialists are selected from personnel in the fields of science research and application of manned space engineering, the report said.
The third selection was launched in May 2018 and finished recently. A total of 2,500 candidates attended the selection.
More selections will be held in accordance to the development of China’s manned space industry.
Chinese women are playing a more significant role in the country’s aerospace programs, working as astronauts, helping develop aeromedicine and Mars exploration, the Global Times claimed.
Two Chinese female astronauts, Liu Yang and Wang Yaping, have entered space.
Liu, China’s first female astronaut, who flew into space in June 2012 aboard Shenzhou 9, completed 15 aeromedicine experiments, including collecting harmful gas inside the capsule, the report said.
Wang’s mission in 2013 was onboard the Tiangong-1 space lab module with five other astronauts.
She delivered China’s first televised science lecture to an audience of more than 60 million schoolchildren and teachers in China.
President Xi Jinping has prioritized advancing China’s space program to strengthen national security.
The country has already sent two space stations into space — Tiangong-1 and Tiangong-2 – though only Chinese astronauts boarded them.
“There are only a handful of countries capable of sending a space station up into orbit. It’s a massive program that demonstrates China’s comprehensive scientific and technological capabilities,” Zhang Baoxin, an aviation and military expert, told the Global Times.
“Tiangong will allow China to have a space lab to conduct successive scientific experiments,” Zhang said.
In addition to two scientific laboratories, Tiangong 3 will also serve as a repair shop. China wants to launch a large optical telescope in a similar orbit, which will be able to dock with the space station for its maintenance and for its provisioning.