In a bid to increase its presence in space and technology arena, China has decided to begin a massive recruitment drive which will see the country recruiting civilian astronauts for its own military endorsed space training program.
The information comes amid reports that claim that China is planning to increase the number of manned space missions to around two per year. The news was confirmed on Saturday by Yang Liwei, deputy director of the China Manned Space Engineering Office on the sidelines of the first session of the 13th National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC). Notably, Yang was China’s first man in space in 2003.
According to Yang, China’s third batch of astronaut trainees will include recruits from industry, research institutions, and universities. The trainees could include private-sector maintenance engineers, payload specialists, pilots as well as scientists. In fact, more women are also being encouraged to apply.
Yang added that the core module and a new carrier rocket for the Chinese space station project are also being developed.
China selected its first group of 14 astronauts, or yuhangyuan in Chinese, in the late 1990s and the second group of seven in 2010 which also included two women. Of them, 11 taikonauts (Chinese astronauts) have been sent to space in six missions.
Notably, China was excluded from the International Space Station mainly due to US concerns over the Chinese space program’s strong military connections. China is the third country after Russia and the U.S. to conduct manned space missions. It has also staged a spacewalk and successfully landed its Jade Rabbit rover on the moon. The country is planning to land another rover on Mars in 2020 and bring back samples. China also plans to become the first country to soft-land a probe on the far side of the moon.
China’s space station, which is currently under construction, is scheduled to come online in 2022.