China: Shenzhou-16 launches with first civilian on board

World Tuesday 30/May/2023 16:26 PM
By: DW
China: Shenzhou-16 launches with first civilian on board

Beijing: China sent three astronauts, including a civilian, to its Tiangong space station on Tuesday as part of a crew rotation, according to state media.

This is China's fifth manned mission to its now fully functional space station since 2021. It's also the first time China has sent a civilian into orbit.

The Shenzhou-16 crew
The crew has Jing Haipeng as the leading commander on the mission, as well as engineer Zhu Yangzhu and Beihang University professor Gui Haichao, the first Chinese civilian to travel to space.

Gui will be serving as the payload specialist on the mission and will manage experiments at Tiangong space station.

The crew on the spacecraft, Shenzhou-16, or "Divine Vessel," took off atop a Long March-2F rocket from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Centre which is located in the Gobi Desert in northwest China.

The launch was a "complete success" and the "astronauts are in good condition," said Zou Lipeng, director of the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Centre.

China's space plans
The Tiangong space station is key to China's "space dream" and was developed after the US barred NASA from engaging with China.

China has been actively pursuing its plans to send a crewed mission to the moon and build a moon base by the end of the decade.

The station holds several state-of-the-art pieces of equipment, including "the world's first space-based cold atomic clock system," state news agency Xinhua reported.

China has already announced that it will expand its permanently inhabited space station.

Shenzhou-16 is the first mission to Tiangong since it entered its "application and development" stage, authorities said.

The Shenzhou-16 crew will replace the three-member crew of the Shenzhou-15 which was sent to the space station in November last year.

China is expected to send another crewed mission to the space outpost this year.