Two taikonauts training for an extravehicular activity in a neutral bouncy pool.

China completes fourth taikonaut batch selection ahead of lunar missions

The China Manned Space Agency announced on June 11th that it had completed the selection of its fourth batch of taikonauts. Applications were received from the Chinese mainland and the special administrative regions of Hong Kong and Macao.

From the applications, the agency narrowed its selection down to ten taikonauts, eight spacecraft pilots and two payload specialists. The payload specialists of the fourth batch are from Hong Kong and Macao, with one from each. Initial selection of the fourth batch began in October of 2022.

The identities of the new taikonauts are not yet known to the public, which is standard practice for the China Manned Space Agency who prefer to reveal crews shortly before their missions.

Previous taikonauts selection saw an initial fourteen taikonauts being chosen in 1998, with seven more selected in 2010, and eighteen more in 2020 as part of the previous batch. To date, China has selected and trained forty-nine taikonauts, with five currently retired from active duty. Only twenty-two of the taikonauts ever selected have currently flown to space as part of thirteen missions.

Taikonauts from the fourth batch are not expected to fly for another two and a half years, as they still have training to complete. The China Manned Space Agency also expects international astronauts to train alongside their fourth batch.

Speaking to CGTN, Huang Weifen (黄伟芬), Cheif Designer of the Manned Space Program's Astronaut System, said the following about the training of the new Taikonauts:

"For the training of our existing second and third batches of astronauts, as well as the upcoming fourth batch, we have opened fundamental courses related to geology. We have also arranged for the astronauts relevant training, including field studies and geological surveys. When the development of training simulators for manned lunar missions is completed, we will be able to unfold more substantive training tasks" – "Currently, we are making preliminary preparations and involving both our existing astronauts and the newly selected astronauts in engineering development work to allow them to study in the frontline of scientific research and to make the technical reserve for future missions"

Taikonauts from the fourth batch are also likely to be assigned to China's crewed lunar exploration missions, which are expected to occur before 2030. China Manned Space Agency has implied that crews assigned to lunar missions must have spent time aboard the county's Tiangong Space Station in low Earth orbit prior.