Page last updated at 14:51 GMT, Sunday, 2 August 2009 15:51 UK

Astronauts wanted - no bad breath

Nie Haisheng boarding a Chinese rocket in 2005
Those to follow Nie Haisheng into space must have impeccable dental hygiene

Would-be astronauts competing for China's next space programme must comply with 100 rules - excluding those with bad breath or a runny nose.

The list, intended to recruit "super human beings", also prohibits those with body odours, tooth cavities or scars which may "burst open" in space.

China will launch a space module next year and hopes for a docking by 2011.

But aspiring "taikonauts" will get nowhere without marital approval. Wives get the final say under the new rules.

Bad body odour will affect fellow colleagues in the narrow confines of a space shuttle
Shi Bing Bing, air force doctor

If a would-be astronaut's spouse does not like the idea of them going into space they must remain on earth.

Shi Bing Bing, a doctor at the 454th Air Force Hospital in Nanjing, eastern China, said the new rules will help China send the best of the best into space.

"Bad body odour will affect fellow colleagues in the narrow confines of a space shuttle," he said.

"These astronauts could be regarded as super human beings."

Mr Shi's hospital has now carried out a first screening of candidates to weed out those who fell foul of the 100 rules.

A further two screenings will whittle hopefuls down to the small band who will follow in the footsteps of China's space pioneers, chosen in 1997.

Any candidate with a history of serious illness in the last three generations of their family is barred.

'Pleasant disposition'

Also prohibited are those with drug allergies or ringworm.

Successful candidates must possess a "pleasant and adaptable disposition", the guidelines make clear.

China put its first person into space in 2003, while Zhai Zhigang, the son of a snack seller, carried out the first Chinese spacewalk last year.

The country's long-term goal is to build its own space station orbiting earth.

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