Chinese moms picked for space mission

Posted by Emma Woollacott

China has opted for married mothers over single women in its selection of its first female astronauts.

Both women, chosen from a shortlist of 15, are aero-transport pilots with the People’s Liberation Army Air Force. They bring the country's corps of astronauts to 21.

They're likely to take part in missions to the country's planned space station, on which construction is scheduled to start next year.

"We had almost the same requirements for women as for men, the only difference was they must be married. We believe married women would be more physically and psychologically mature," Zhang Jianqi, former deputy commander of China’s manned space programme, told the state-owned news agency Xinhua.

Five men were also chosen from a list of 30. Of course it goes without saying that they're physically and psychologically mature. But Zhang did say that women may have more endurance and circumspection than men.

All candidates were expected to be physically perfect - flaws such as scars or bad breath were forbidden. They'll now embark on five years' training.

Chinese officials also announced that a third unmanned moon probe, Chang'e-3, will be launched in around three years' time. On landing, it will release a moon rover to survey the surface and interior of the moon.