First spacewoman becomes a mom

First spacewoman becomes a mom
Liu Yang and her husband Zhang Hua cook dinner at their home in Beijing in May.

China's first female astronaut has become a mom and is undergoing training for her next mission, according to Chinese media.

Liu Yang, who took part in the Shenzhou IX mission in June 2012, confirmed on Tuesday that she is now a mother as she attended an award ceremony in Beijing for the families of members of the military, Global Times reported on Wednesday.

She did not give any details about her family, and the paper quoted her as saying, "We are continuing the training to make ready for the next mission."

Liu is the only deputy to the National People's Congress among the country's 21 astronauts.

When China decided to select two female astronauts in the early 2000s, experts wanted to choose married mothers.

"Married women who have a child or some children are believed to be comparatively steadier and more experienced in their profession, so the space authorities tended to choose them as astronauts," an expert close to China's space agency said on condition of anonymity.

"Another consideration that was not discussed openly was that they were very cautious about the possible effects of space radiation on women's fertility, though there is no evidence that it causes harm.

"Considering that many female astronauts from foreign nations have given birth to children who are quite healthy after completing missions, there should be no concern about a spacewoman's health or fertility."

China's space authorities have since changed the selection standards and now say the ideal female candidate is a married women who has not yet given birth, he added.

Fifty-nine women have flown in space, out of total of 536 who have left Earth.

An earlier report by Time magazine said medical specialists believe it is actually male astronauts whose reproductive capabilities are more vulnerable.

Richard Jennings, who practices gynecology and aerospace medicine in the United States, was quoted as saying, "As far as the acute effects of radiation, men are much more at risk than women since the spermatogonia are very sensitive to radiation."

Shenzhou IX was the first manned spacecraft to dock with the Tiangong 1 space station. Liu was one of three astronauts who took part in the 13-day mission.

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