China has chosen a new class of 18 astronauts, another step along its methodical path to explore space in the coming decades.

Why it matters: The nation has plans to build a new space station in orbit and eventually send people to the Moon, making some in the U.S. concerned about the geopolitical implications of China's space ambitions.

Details: China's new astronauts include 17 men and one woman, according to an announcement released last week by the China Manned Space Agency.

  • Those astronauts — called taikonauts in China — comprise seven spaceflight engineers, four payload specialists and seven pilots.
  • China has not yet released information about the new astronauts or about the missions they may eventually be assigned.
  • A total of about 2,500 candidates were considered for the prestigious positions.

Between the lines: The group of 18 new astronauts will likely be culturally diverse in some way, says Heritage Foundation's Dean Cheng.

  • "It wouldn't surprise me, actually, if you had a Tibetan or a Muslim — not necessarily a Uighur, but someone who is Muslim — to basically bring home the idea that we are all one big, happy, multiethnic society," Cheng told me.

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