China has brought three taikonauts on the flight to the “Tiangong” (“Heaven’s Palace”) space station. It’s the first crew change since it went into service earlier this year, and it’s the first time a civilian is on board.
China has sent a non-military human into space for the first time. In the early morning German time, the rocket for the Shenzou-16 mission took off from the Jiuquan spaceport in the Gobi desert in the north-west of the country. She transports Gui Haichao and two other crew members to the Chinese space station “Tiangong” (“Heaven’s Palace”).
Gui is a professor at Beijing Aerospace University. The Shenzhou-16 mission will be led by experienced taikonaut Jing Haipeng, with engineer Zhu Yangzhu on board as the third crew member. So far, all Chinese astronauts have been members of the People’s Liberation Army.
China wants to catch up with the US and Russia
It is the first crew change since the space station went into regular service earlier this year. The Shenzhou 16 crew will replace the existing space station crew and will remain in space for approximately 5 months.
The second largest economy in the world has invested billions of dollars in its space program in order to catch up with the leading space nations USA and Russia.