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China's first female astronaut due by 2012

China's first female astronaut, who is yet to be selected to join the country's second fleet of taikonauts, is expected to complete her journey into space by 2012.

Guangzhou-based Nanfang Weekly quoted Sui Guosheng, an officer in charge of recruitment with the Air Force of the Chinese People's Liberation Army, as saying.

The potential female astronauts would be recruited from 16 female fighter pilots who graduated in April.

The female pilots, who were chosen from 150,000 high school graduates in 12 provinces, were the first batch of Chinese young women qualified to fly fighter jets.

They are expected to undergo between two and three years of training.

China's first astronaut Yang Liwei, who made history six years ago by completing the country's first space voyage, said during a web chat with on Tuesday that the selection of China's first woman astronaut was underway.

"I believe Chinese women will soon be seen in space." said Yang, who is now in charge of the country's selection of the next generation of astronauts.

By now, the Soviet Union, the United States, Japan, the Republic of Korea and Europe have all sent women into space.

The world's first female astronaut, Valentina Vladimirovna Tereshkova, who boarded the Soviet Union's Vostok 6 in June 1963, stayed in space for almost three full days.


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