MOSCOW, Nov. 26 (UPI) -- A cosmonaut recruitment drive in Russian has produced eight prospects, including the country's second female one, officials said.
Anna Kikina, 28, is now the second active spacewoman trainee in Russia after Yelena Serova, who is set to fly to the International Space Station in 2014, RIA Novosti reported Monday.
Kikina, a native of Novosibirsk in western Siberia, said unlike the rest of the recruits going to space was not a childhood dream.
"I decided to try out when I found out an ordinary person now has a chance of going to space," Kikina, an engineer, said as the recruits were introduced to the media in Moscow.
Previously limited to military pilots, engineers employed in the space industry, scientists from the Academy of Sciences and professional medics, the Federal Space Agency opened the recruitment process to all able-bodied Russians with a higher education in 2010.
Being selected as a prospect is not a guarantee of a spot in the cosmonaut ranks, officials said, as some may drop out during the two-year training period.
Russian officials have denied any previous gender discrimination, saying the lack of female cosmonauts in Russia was because of a smaller female presence in military aviation and space industry, the traditional talent pool for space programs.