September 26, 2008 / 7:47 AM / 9 years ago

Chinese women don't hold up half of space... yet

BEIJING (Reuters) - Chairman Mao Zedong might have famously proclaimed that “women hold up half the sky,” but China has no firm plans yet to send a woman into space even as it proceeds with its third manned mission.

The Shenzhou VII spaceship blasted three men into space from a remote desert site on Thursday, bringing the number of Chinese who have orbited the Earth to six, all of whom are male.

“The selection of women astronauts has not been put in our schedule yet,” Yang Liwei, who became the first Chinese man in space in 2003, told Friday’s China Youth Daily.

“There is no problem with Chinese women becoming astronauts,” added Yang, now deputy director of China Astronaut Research and Training Center. “We are doing some pre-research programs now.”

Yang told the paper that China would select women astronauts only when they were needed for certain future tasks.

“It will only waste resources if we do it too early and blindly,” Yang said. “But I believe we won’t wait too long.”

Valentina Tereshkova, from the then Soviet Union, became the first woman in space in 1963.

But the United States waited until 1983 before sending Sally Ride into space, on the shuttle Challenger.

Reporting by Yu Le; Editing by Ben Blanchard

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