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Space module made for China's female astronauts

06-14-2012 19:03 BJT

China's Tiangong-1space module has been specially designed for females, as the country's first woman astronaut will join Shenzhou-9 manned spacecraft docking mission this week and live in the Tiangong for 13 days.

Two female astronauts, Liu Yang(R) and Wang Yaping (L), will join Shenzhou-9 manned spacecraft docking mission with Tiangong-1 spacecraft in mid-June. They are selected as members of the first batch of female astronauts in China because of their excellent flight skills and psychological quality. [file photo]

Despite the module being only 15 cubic meters inside, the female astronaut will have a separate toilet and bedroom that is soundproof to protect her privacy, Pang Zhihao, a researcher with the China Academy of Space Technology, said yesterday.

"She will also be able to take a sponge bath with more water supply than that of her male counterparts, according to international conventions, and even bring some specially made cosmetics into space," said Pang.

Three astronauts, including a woman, have arrived at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwestern Gansu Province and are undergoing final tests.

The spacecraft will perform China's first manned space docking mission with the orbiting Tiangong-1 space lab module to let the astronauts enter. Live butterflies also will be taken into the space for scientific experiments.

A wide range of food has been prepared for the astronauts. More than 80 categories of food and condiments, including vinegar and pepper, are stored in the Shenzhou-9 spacecraft, far more than on any of the country's previous missions, Pang said.

The astronauts also will bring a food heater for the first time to ensure hot meals every day.

Their daily life also will be colorful. Apart from scientific experiments, they can watch movies on a laptop computer and send emails with attachments up to 8 megabytes via satellite.

"They can also have video conversations in the cabin with their families," Pang said.

Two women pilots from the Wuhan Flight Unit, including a backup, were picked for the mission. Either Liu Yangor Wang Yapingwill become the nation's first woman in space, said Qi Faren, former chief designer of the Shenzhou spaceship series.

They are selected from 15 women who must be married and have given birth naturally, according to Space International magazine of the China Academy of Space Technology. They also must have no scars or body odor.

Pang said a scar might open and start bleeding in space and the cramped conditions would intensify body odor.

Xu Xianrong, a professor with the General Hospital of the PLA Air Force, said the female astronauts must be married and have given birth naturally because that ensures their body and mental condition are mature enough.

Meanwhile, Pang said female astronauts tend to be more "keen and sensitive with better communication skills than their male counterparts." He added women were also good at dealing with relationships with their space partners, which would be an important issue on a long mission such as a trip to Mars.

The former Soviet Union sent the world's first female astronaut, Valentina Vladimirovna Tereshkova, into space in 1963.

The Shenzhou-9 spacecraft was being tested for lightning, high temperatures and other adverse weather conditions ahead of its launch, Li Dongxing, head of the meteorology office at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center, said yesterday.

Li said lightning will be the greatest hazard for the craft, but so will heavy winds, precipitation and electric fields.

Nearly 30 weather forecasters are doing their best to make precise forecasts for the craft's launch window, he added.

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