How hard is it to be a female taikonaut in China?

According to China's senior space experts, to be considered for the mission, female taikonauts needed to be married and to have given birth naturally.

    One of the good things that Chairman Mao, a Chinese communist leader and founder of the People's Republic of China, did back in the day was to liberate women. "Woman can hold up half of the sky" was one of Mao's most quoted saying, and he meant it. Women in workforce rose from seven per cent in 1949 to today's 70 per cent. Granted that in Chinese politics that wasn't reflected, in other areas, the Communist party does go out its way to present their women friendly tradition.

    So, it's only a matter of time for China to send its first woman taikonaut into space. If all goes well, the historical event will take place mid-June when the Shenzhou-9 spacecraft will dock with China's orbiting space lab Tiangong 1.

    Two ladies, either Liu Yang or Wang Yaping, will be among a three-people crew to aboard the spacecraft. The first window of launching is the 16th, as the date draws close, it's been reported that Liu Yang will be the woman for the mission. The Chinese audience has been fascinated by the story, all wondering who these women are and how they were picked. And like everything else that comes with Chinese characteristics, the picking of women taikonauts is done in China style. First and foremost, the women taikonauts have to be married. "This is to ensure that they are physically and emotionally more mature." explains Zhang Jianqi, a former deputy commander-in-chief of the China manned Space Program.

    'Seems a bit harsh'

    The women should have given natural birth, so to avoid any impact space travel may have on women's reproductive abilities, according to Pang Zhihao, a researcher from China Academy of Space Technology. "The rules make sense, if one has gone through the pain of natural birth, they are stronger mentally, better at dealing with stress, especially comparing to those little girls who haven't experienced much." Doctor Wang Liuyang from a maternity ward was quoted by Chongqing Daily, a regional newspaper in southern China.

    There are also other criteria such as: white flawless teeth, fresh breath, no feet callous and no body odour, which I personally agree with. Good personal hygiene does sound extremely important when confined in a space lab for 20 days, but smelly men don't seem to bother the experts.

    The topic of female taikonauts is on the top 10 most talked about subjects on China's equivalent of twitter, Sina weibo. "Is this true? It sounds like a competition requirement for Miss Universe," commented one weibo user. "Do they have the same requirement for male? And what do they mean by body odor? As in any gas released from her can’t smell? Seems a bit harsh," says Guo Yingjian on his weibo account.

    Stuck in a space lab with two guys who might not have the same hygiene standard as yourself can be stressful, but as long as there's privacy, all can be forgiven. There are separate toilets for male and female in the lab, separate sleeping areas. According to the international rules, women get more water in space and allowed to carry cosmetics that are non-toxic and pollution-free. "It just really makes me worry, how is she going to be able to put on her make-up, what about her hair? I can't imagine being on TV with a messy hairstyle. I heard there's internet up there though, so maybe she could continue with her favourite South Korean soap opera or something," Weibo user Feng Yuyu commented.


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