Friday, October 21, 2005

Flight of the Taikonauts

The spacecraft Shenzhou 6 landed safely on Earth on Oct. 16, completing China's second trip into space. Is it just me or is that a pretty cool name for a space craft? What will China do with their mighty space aspirations? Perhaps show the world it can do more than make Nike shoes. They are now the third country to fly space missions. And check this out... While men and women who fly in American spacecraft are known as astronauts, and those who fly in Russian spacecraft are cosmonauts, those who fly in Chinese spacecraft are known as yuhangyuans or sometimes taikonauts.

The word yuhangyuan is Chinese for space navigator. It is the name used by official media when reporting on the nation's astronauts. The word taikonaut is derived from taikong, the Chinese word for space. The Beijing Youth Daily newspaper reported in 2005 that China plans to recruit more men and women for future flights since all 14 of the nation's male military-pilot yuhangyuans are more than 30 years old. After the Shenzhou 6 flight, Tang Xianming, director of the China Space Engineering Office, said the nation wants to add female astronauts. He also said they want to move beyond merely developing spaceflight vehicles to spacewalks and rendezvous and docking with multiple spacecraft.

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