Thursday, March 25, 2010
Time Magazine: China's Female Astronauts: Must Be a Married Mom, by Hillary Brenhouse:
The men chosen to lead China into outer space are often referred to locally as "superhuman beings" — and not just because they train to cross the final frontier. Would-be taikonauts have to meet near-impossible standards meant to weed out the less-than-flawless. Chinese astronauts cannot suffer from chronic sore throats or runny noses. They mustn't have food restrictions, strong regional accents, ringworm, cavities or scars. Bad breath, body odor and a snoring problem are all immediate disqualifiers. And if its spacemen are expected to satisfy an unlikely string of qualifications, so too are its new spacewomen — with two notable additional criteria. China's first two female reserve astronauts, selected earlier this month from a pool of fifteen women fighter pilots, were required to be wives and mothers.
The reasoning behind the prerequisite, according to officials, is that spaceflight could potentially harm the women's fertility. "It's out of the consideration of being responsible for the female pilots," Xu Xianrong, director of the PLA's Clinical Aerospace Medicine Center in Beijing and a member of the selection panel, told the official government news agency Xinhua. "Though there is little evidence on how the space experience will affect the female constitution, we have to be extra cautious because this is a first for China." Ensuring that the female astronauts have already reproduced, he said, will guarantee that their family planning is not disrupted. . . .