China Sends First Civilian Astronaut To Space As Shenzhou-16 Blasts Off

China launched its first civilian astronaut into orbit on Tuesday, launching the Shenzhou-16 mission to the International Space Station for its second in-orbit crew rotation, marking another milestone in the country’s ambitious space programme. The three Shenzhou-16 astronauts launched from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Centre in China’s Gansu province’s desert at 9:31 a.m. on Tuesday, bound for the Tiangong space station circling Earth.

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Why In The News?

  • China Sent Its First Civilian Astronaut Into Orbit, As It Launched The Shenzhou-16 Mission To Its Space Station For Its Second In-orbit Crew Rotation, Marking Another Step Forward For The Country’s Ambitious Space Program.
  • The Three Shenzhou-16 Astronauts Blasted Off From The Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center In The Desert Of China’s Gansu Province On Tuesday Morning, Headed For The Tiangong Space Station Orbiting Earth.
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Shenzhou-16 Mission:

  • The Crew – Jing Haipeng, Zhu Yangzhu, And Gui Haichao – Will Take Over From The Shenzhou-15 Astronauts, Who Have Been Abroad At China’s Newly Completed Tiangong Space Station Since November, To Start Their Own Five-month Stint Aboard The Station. It Is China’s Fifth Manned Mission To The Space Station Since 2021.
  • Among The Shenzhou-16 Crew, Gui, A Professor At China’s Prestigious Aeronautics Institution Beihang University Who Pursued His Postdoctoral Studies In Canada, Is The First Chinese Civilian To Be On A Spaceflight. All Other Astronauts Have Been Members Of China’s People’s Liberation Army.
  • Gui Will Operate Payloads For Space Experiments, While Jing And Zhu Will Operate And Manage The Spacecraft, In Addition To Carrying Out Technical Tests, The China Manned Space Agency (CMSA) Announced.
  • Jing, The Mission Commander, Is A Space Veteran Who Was Among China’s First Team Of Astronauts In 1998 And Has Already Completed Three Manned Flight Missions. The Mission Marks The First Space Flights For Zhu And Gui, Both Born In 1986.
China Sends First Civilian Astronaut To Space As Shenzhou 16 Blasts Off

Chinese Space Ambitions:

  • The Shenzhou-16 Launch Comes As China Has Rapidly Been Advancing Its Capabilities In Space – Including Through The Establishment Of Its Tiangong Space Station, Which Completed Its Basic Construction Last Year And Is Expected To Operate And Host Astronauts For At Least A Decade.
  • This Could Make It The Sole In-orbit Outpost For Scientific Research After The Expected End Of Operations For The International Space Station In 2030. China Has Sought To Open Up Its Station To Collaboration With International Partners, Including By Hosting Experiments From Other Countries.
  • Beijing For Years Has Been Leveraging Of Its Rising Prowess As A Global Space Power To Offer Partnerships And Development Opportunities To Other Countries As Part Of Its Diplomacy.
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