Chinese astronaut bridges gender gap
(chinadaily.com.cn)| Updated : 2021-10-18Print Print
Crew on board the Shenzhou XIII spacecraft - Zhai Zhigang (C), Wang Yaping (R) and Ye Guangfu (L). [Photo provided to chinadaily.com.cn]
China's landmark six-month journey in space has left many curious about the differences between male and female astronauts.
Wang Yaping, a 41-year-old female astronaut from Shandong province in East China, became the first Chinese woman to enter China's space station after the trio settled inside the Tianhe core module last week.
"Astronauts need to meet high physical and emotional standards, so female astronauts will not be exempt from this expectation," said Pang Zhihao, a spaceflight researcher in Beijing and a former analyst at the China Academy of Space Technology.
"Contrary to many people's opinion that it is inconvenient for women to take part in lengthy spaceflights, female astronauts actually have many advantages over their male counterparts in extended missions," Pang said.
"Research and previous missions with female crew members have found many physiological indices in women such as hormonal levels and trace elements are better than those in males. They are less susceptible to negative conditions such as iron poisoning, thrombus, vasospasm and arrhythmia.
"Women are usually more sensitive, attentive and careful in many regards, and normally are better at communicating. These traits are useful assets in extended flights. The presence of a female astronaut brings more to a demanding mission," Pang said, noting he looks forward to Wang's success.
Wang was selected for the Shenzhou XIII mission in December 2019. The selection process and training for both male and female astronauts are the same, because spaceflight missions are arduous. The assessments take into account each candidate's physical fitness, flight experience, willpower and mental conditions.
The mission will also see Wang become China's first female spacewalker, conducting multiple extravehicular activities outside the station during her stay.
"This is not only an honor, but is also an opportunity for us to research the various advantages female astronauts have when walking outside the vehicle," Pang said. "Their generally smaller size is an advantage, as they'll be able to control their weight better and thus perform a wider variety of tasks."
In addition, astronauts frequently conduct indoor experiments, and Wang Yaping is no different there.
"She plans to study aerospace medicine and space life to prepare future female astronauts for long-term stays in space," Pang said.
In June 2013, Wang took part in the Shenzhou X mission, which lasted nearly 15 days, and gave China's first space-based lecture to Chinese students from inside the Tiangong I experimental module.
As part of her mission, she is expecting to give her second space-based lecture during her stay.
In order to better accommodate Wang for her journey, Tianzhou 3, a cargo spacecraft carrying supplies to the China space station, has sent her sanitary supplies and a few non-toxic cosmetics.
A tailor-made spacesuit was also prepared for Wang's extravehicular activities, lighter than the male variant.