Next mission: women in space

PUBLISHED : Monday, 08 March, 2004, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 08 March, 2004, 12:00am

After joining the elite group of nations to have put an astronaut into space, China is now planning to send a woman into orbit.

Yesterday's report by the Beijing Youth Daily came on the eve of International Women's Day.

Gu Xiulian, chairwoman of the All-China Women's Federation, told a meeting of female model workers in Beijing on Saturday that she had urged the Central Military Commission to consider having female astronauts. She quoted a folk saying - 'If man and woman work together, they work longer'.

Ms Gu said her proposal had been approved by the leaders of the commission, who instructed the PLA's general armament department to work on the idea.

Colonel Yang Liwei became China's first man in space last October after the successful launch of the Shenzhou V spaceship.

He later had a 10-minute phone conversation with Claudie Haignere, the first French woman in space, during a public session. The triumphant colonel told Ms Haignere, who is now the French minister for research and new technology, that China would also have its own female astronaut one day.

The mainland is planning a second manned space flight next year, according to the Shenzhou spacecraft's chief designer Qi Faren. It will last up to five days and involve more than one astronaut.