China sends its first civilian astronaut into space
Eva Deschamps / June 1, 2023
The three astronauts' stay is scheduled to last six months, and marks a new stage in the progress of Beijing's space program.
On Tuesday May 30, China sent three new astronauts to its Tiangong space station, including for the first time a civilian. This is a valuable experience for the Asian giant, which has reaffirmed its desire to send a Chinese astronaut to the Moon by 2030, a major objective of a space program that has been progressing steadily for several decades.
The trio on the Shenzhou-16 mission lifted off aboard a Long March 2F rocket at 9:31 a.m. local time from the Jiuquan launch center in the Gobi Desert, according to AFP reporters on site. The launch was a "total success" and the "astronauts are in good shape", said Zou Lipeng, director of the launch center.
Mission commander, veteran engineer Jing Haipeng, on his fourth space flight, is accompanied by engineer Zhu Yangzhu and Gui Haichao, a professor and the first Chinese civilian in space. A specialist in space science and engineering, Haichao will be in charge of experiments on the station. He does not come from the armed forces, as has always been the case until now. Their stay in Tiangong ("Heavenly Palace" in Chinese) is scheduled to last six months.