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China Selects First Generation of Astronauts
All aged around 30, about 1.7 meters tall and weighing around 50 kg, 14 candidates have been singled out from China's air force to be the country's first generation of astronauts, according to a Shanghai newspaper.

Based on the timetable of China's moon exploration program, the first manned space flight will take off in three years.

"The first group of Chinese astronauts will be chosen from the 14 candidates who were selected from elite pilots," said Liu Zongying, designer of the propeller compartment of China's Shenzhou series spacecraft, who is one of the trainers of the future astronauts.

The Wen Hui Bao quoted Liu as saying that contrary to popular imagination, the astronauts are short and have a light bodyweight to fit into the spacecraft's cabin.

The cabin -- just 2.8 meters long with a diameter of 2.25 meters -- will be the living space of the astronauts.

Liu said that the astronauts' hygiene is important. They change their one-off underwear everyday while living in the cabin.

All the candidates are undergoing "tough training", said Liu. But he did not give specific training schedule. Two of the candidates have received training in Russia.

The astronaut menu has 20 varieties. The compressed food can guarantee all the necessary nutrition for astronauts.

The Chinese space scientists said that China has made three-step plan of its moon exploration: Take Chinese astronauts into space; create a space laboratory; and set up China's space station and establish a connection with international space stations.

(Xinhua News Agency May 21, 2002)

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