Beijing: China on Tuesday sent its first civilian astronaut into orbit. It launched the Shenzhou-16 mission to its space station for its second in-orbit crew rotation, as reported by CNN. According to CNN, the three Shenzhou-16 astronauts launched from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in the desert of China’s Gansu province at 9:31 a.m. on Tuesday morning headed for the Tiangong space station orbiting Earth. It is China’s fifth manned mission to the space station since 2021.
The Jing Haipeng, Zhu Yangzhu, and Gui Haichao crew will be taking over from the Shenzhou-15 astronauts, who have been at China’s newly completed Tiangong space station since November.
The crew aboard the station were pictured watching the launch of their replacement crew via live stream. The two crews were expected to meet at the station around 6.5 hours time after the launch, CNN reported citing state media. Among the Shenzhou-16 crew Gui is the first Chinese civilian to be on a spaceflight, as reported by CNN. He is a professor at China’s aeronautics institution Beihang University. He pursued his postdoctoral studies in Canada. All the other astronauts have been members of China’s People’s Liberation Army.
Gui will be operating payloads for space experiments. Jing and Zhu will be managing the spacecraft. Along with that, they will also carry out technical tests, the China Manned Space Agency (CMSA) said in a press conference while introducing the crew on Monday, CNN reported.
Jing, the mission commander, is a space veteran who was part of China’s first astronaut crew in 1998 and has completed three manned flight missions. Zhu and Gui, both born in 1986, are making their maiden space flights.