30th May 2023 – (Jiuquan) China’s Shenzhou-16 spacecraft successfully launched from the Jiuquan satellite launch centre in northern China at 9.31am on Tuesday, carrying three astronauts to the Tiangong space station for a five-month mission. The mission marks “a new stage of application and development” in China’s space program, according to the mission’s commander, Jing Haipeng, who is making his fourth journey into space – a record for Chinese astronauts.
The crew also includes Gui Haichao, a payload specialist and the first Chinese astronaut drawn from outside the ranks of the People’s Liberation Army, as well as space flight engineer Zhu Yangzhu, who is making his first journey into space. The astronauts are expected to dock with the Tiangong space station’s Tianhe core module, located 400km (248 miles) above the ground, after a journey of less than seven hours.
The Tiangong’s inaugural crew, who have been conducting experiments and assembling equipment during their six months in space, will be relieved by the Shenzhou-16 crew. The astronauts on board the Tiangong are due to return to Earth next month, after a brief overlap.
The successful launch of the Shenzhou-16 spacecraft and China’s ambitious space program have once again demonstrated the country’s growing technological prowess and global ambitions. With its sights set on the moon and beyond, China is rapidly developing its space capabilities and investing heavily in research and development.