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Female applicants fail to qualify for Russia’s cosmonaut team — source

Thirteen persons have been cleared for the final selection stage, according to the source

MOSCOW, June 14. /TASS/. Female applicants have failed to qualify for a group of 13 candidates, from whom new members of Russia’s national cosmonaut team will be selected, a source in the domestic space industry told TASS on Thursday.

"Thirteen persons have been cleared by the main medical commission and the final stage will involve selection at the inter-departmental commission, which will be held in late June," the source said, specifying that "there are no females among the thirteen candidates who have been cleared for the final selection stage."

Russia’s State Space Corporation Roscosmos and the Cosmonaut Training Center declined to comment on this information.

The inter-departmental commission recommends individuals for the beginning of general space training with further employment at the Cosmonaut Training Center and their inclusion in the team of candidate cosmonauts. After a number of tests, a candidate in the cosmonaut team may get the qualification of a test cosmonaut and count on a space flight.

New recruitment campaign

The 17th selection procedure for Russia’s cosmonaut team kicked off in March 2017. Overall, 420 applications were filed. The selection was an open recruitment campaign: any Russian citizen not older than 35 years of age, with a higher university degree in engineering, the sciences or piloting and work experience were eligible to apply. Moreover, females filed a larger number of applications compared to the previous procedure (the 2012 recruitment campaign).

The current selection procedure implies that candidates for cosmonauts will be trained for flights aboard the new Federatsiya (Federation) spacecraft. The contenders were assessed by such criteria as their education, professional level, health, psychological qualities and physical preparedness.

Four women in orbit to date

Over the entire period of space exploration in the Soviet Union and present-day Russia, only four women have been able to travel to outer space: Valentina Tereshkova, Svetlana Savitskaya, Yelena Kondakova and Yelena Serova. For comparison, NASA has sent 47 women to outer space to date or almost 12 times more.

During the previous recruitment campaign, which became the first open selection procedure, eight persons were selected out of 304 applicants for the Cosmonaut Training Center in 2012. Six of them are now members of Russia’s cosmonaut team. Anna Kikina was the sole female candidate. By decision of the inter-departmental commission, she was included in the team of candidate cosmonauts. At that time, Yelena Serova was the sole woman in the team and Kikina became the second.

In June 2014, as Kikina continued training in the candidate group, the commission voted by secret ballot against assigning her the title of a test cosmonaut. However, in September that year, the then-head of the Cosmonaut Training Center said that Kikina could count on a space flight and in December the commission assigned her the qualification of a test cosmonaut.

Currently, Kikina is the sole woman in the national cosmonaut team, which numbers 26 cosmonauts. Her colleague Serova quit the cosmonaut team in September 2016 to become a lawmaker. Up to date, Kikina has not made any space flight.