China will send a civilian astronaut into space for the first time on Tuesday as part of a mission to the Tiangong space station, the country's Human Space Agency announced.
“Payload expert Gui Haichao is a professor of aeronautics and astronautics at Peking University,“ Lin Xiqiang, a spokesman for the space agency, told reporters on Monday.
Until now, all Chinese astronauts sent into space have been members of the People's Liberation Army.
Greetings for 1 new week with good news: Shenzhou-16 will be launched on May 30 at 09. 31 hrs Beijing. The Crew will be commanded by veteran taikonaut Jing Haipeng, and composed for the 1st time by navigation engineer and cargo expert: Zhu Yangzhu and Gui Haichao. pic.twitter.com/RLQKSM25Lt
— Chen Ping é™ˆå¹³ (@ChenPingMFA) May 29, 2023
Gui will be “the main responsible for the on-orbit operation of experimental space science payloads”, noted Lin.
The Shenzhou-16 spacecraft will lift off aboard a Long March2F rocket from the Jiuguan Satellite Launch Center in northwest China at 09:31 a.m. (0131 GMT) on Tuesday, the agency said.
Under President Xi Jinping, China has intensified the pursuit of its “space dream.”.
The world's second-largest economy has poured millions into its military-controlled space program, hoping to send humans to the moon.
Beijing is looking to catch up with the United States and Russia after years of lagging behind.
In addition to a space station, China plans to build a base on the moon, and the country's National Space Administration says it aims to launch a manned lunar mission by 2029.