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Russia seeks cosmonaut applicants

MOSCOW, Feb. 15 (UPI) -- Only 43 people have applied for the first open cosmonaut selection drive in the history of the Russian space industry with a month to go, recruiters said.

The open selection drive was launched Jan. 27 and runs until March 15.

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Of the current applicants, 27 work in the space industry, traditionally the main source of cosmonauts, Sergei Krikalev, head of the Yuri Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center, told RIA Novosti.

However, the list also includes applicants from other professions, including an airline pilot and three army officers, and there are seven women among the applicants, Krikalev said.

In comparison, an ongoing NASA recruitment drive had about 6,000 applicants, some 1,000 of them female.

"It's tough work to sit on 300 tons of explosives and ascend there," Vitaly Davydov, deputy chief of the Federal Space Agency, said in Moscow.

Recruiters said they expect more applications to come in because applicants need to provide a number of medical and other documents that take time to obtain.

Only four applicants have passed the first stage of the selection process so far, Krikalev said.

The Federal Space Agency expects to select five or six potential cosmonauts in the recruitment drive, he said.

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