For the first time, China has included women among the final candidates for the country's newest class of astronauts.
The China National Space Agency is in the process of selecting its second batch of astronaut candidates, and has narrowed down the pool to 30 men and 15 women, the official state news agency Xinhua reported Thursday. Ultimately, China plans to pick five men and two women as final candidates to join the country's space program as taikonauts.
The 45 preliminary candidates for the second class of Chinese spaceflyers are between the ages of 27 and 34, and all are Air Force pilots for the People's Liberation Army. The male candidates are all fighter pilots and the female candidates are aero-transport pilots, authorities said. Some flew rescue missions after the massive Wenchuan earthquake in May 2008 in China's Sichuan province.