China will include civilians into the group of astronauts to serve its planned space station project, the country's first astronaut said today.
The new taikonauts could be selected from industrial sectors, research institutions and universities, China Manned Space Engineering Office's deputy director Yang Liwei said on the sidelines of the first session of annual session of the advisory body the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) here.
Currently, taikonauts -- a blend of Chinese word taikong which means outer space and astronaut -- are all former air force pilots, said Yang, a member of the CPPCC National Committee and the country's first astronaut.
China selected its first group of 14 taikonauts in the late 1990s and the second group of seven in 2010. Of them, 11 have been sent to space in six spaceflights.
Civilians will be included into the third group of astronauts to serve the planned space station project, Yang said.
The new taikonauts will include not only pilots, but also maintenance engineers and payload specialists for the space station project, state-run Xinhua news agency reported.
To build and operate its space station, China plans to increase manned space missions from once every one to three years to at least twice a year, which require more taikonauts, Yang said.
The core module and a new carrier rocket for the space station project are also being developed, he said.
China initiated the manned space programme in 1992 and successfully sent Yang into orbit with the Shenzhou-5 spacecraft in 2003.
(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)