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China will select at least 17 taikonauts in its third round of recruitment to work on China's space station project, Yang Liwei, the country's first astronaut, said Monday in Beijing.
Yang, director of the China Manned Space Engineering Office, made the announcement to the press at an event in Beijing marking the country's third Space Day, which falls on Tuesday.
Astronaut pilots, engineers and payload specialists will be chosen from air force pilots on active duty, researchers, students and staff from aerospace engineering technology institutions and universities.
About 17 or 18 taikonauts will be chosen, and if recruited they will be sent into space. Both male and female taikonauts will be considered for recruitment.
China selected its first group of 14 taikonauts in the late 1990s and the second group of seven in 2010. Of those, 11 have been sent into space in six spaceflights, Xinhua News Agency reported.
Huang Weifen, deputy chief designer at the Astronaut Center of China, told the Global Times on Monday that it will be the first time that China will select maintenance engineers and payload specialists for the space station project.
The number of taikonauts recruited for this round will be more than in previous years, which Huang said will facilitate the development of the space project. "They will face a heavy mission," she said.
To build and operate its space station, China plans to increase manned space missions from once every one to three years to at least twice a year, which will require more taikonauts, Yang was quoted by Xinhua as saying.
A core module and a new carrier rocket for the space station project are being developed, according to Yang.