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Taikonaut recruitment

CHINA has started a new round of astronaut selection, and between five and seven candidates will make it to the final list, said an officer of China's space program yesterday.

"The new taikonauts will mainly take missions related to China's planned space station," Zhang Jianqi, deputy chief commander of the manned space project, told the Xinhua news agency on the sidelines of China's annual parliamentary session.

Zhang, also a deputy of the National People's Congress, or parliament, is attending the NPC annual session, which is being held in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing.

"Like the first batch of taikonauts, the new taikonauts will be selected among air force pilots," said Zhang.

He also confirmed that astronauts including Yang Liwei, the first Chinese person sent into space, will not retire, and might be sent on further missions if duty calls.

China sent Yang into space in 2003 aboard the self-developed spacecraft Shenzhou V. It was followed by a two-man mission that carried Fei Junlong and Nie Haisheng in 2005.

The trio of Shenzhou VII taikonauts, Zhai Zhigang, Liu Boming and Jing Haipeng orbited the Earth for three days last year.


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