1st Chinese female astronaut training for next mission after giving birth to 1st child

China's first female astronaut has begun training for her next mission after giving birth to her first child, state media reported Friday.

The official China Daily newspaper quoted Liu Yang as confirming the birth at an award ceremony this week but gave no details.

It quoted her saying she was already in training for the next mission, an attempt to dock with a future space station for which no firm date has been set.

Liu, 37, was a member of the three-person Shenzhou 9 mission that flew the first trip to China's experimental space station Tiangong 1 in 2012. China plans to launch a more permanent Tiangong 2 space station in about five years.

China sent its first astronaut into space in 2003, becoming the third nation after Russia and the United States to achieve manned space travel independently.

The selection of China's first women astronauts had been somewhat controversial because of a reported preference for married mothers with children, purportedly to guard against radiation damaging their reproductive health. Those fears have so far proven unfounded, although no pregnant woman has flown in space as far as is known.

Soviet cosmonaut Valentina Tereshkova became the first woman in space in 1963. Twenty years later, Sally Ride became the first American to travel to space, flying twice on the space shuttle Challenger before leaving NASA in 1987. A total of 59 women have flown in space.