China has made history once again by sending its first civilian astronaut into space. The individual in issue is Gui Haichao, a professor at the Beijing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics.
He is a member of the crew of the Tiangong space station's Shenzhou 16 crewed mission. The launch earlier today occurred at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Centre in the Chinese state of Gansu.
Every Chinese astronaut to date has served in their country's military forces. With this mission, China will launch a citizen into space for the first time.
The Shenzhou 16 mission provides proof of China's rising successes in space exploration. The country has big future goals, one of which is to do 3D printing tests on the moon.
The Shenzhou 16 crew is expected to reach the Tiangong space station around 6.5 hours after launch.
Haichao is a specialist in payloads and was the first Chinese person to go to space. He is accompanied by two other astronauts on this trip.
Jing Haipeng is in charge of the mission, while the other astronaut is the aerospace engineer Zhu Yangzhu.
With Shenzhou 16, Haipeng, who was a part of the first Chinese astronaut team in 1998, will go into space for the fourth time. It is Yangzhu's first space mission as well.
While Yangzhu and Haipeng will look after the spacecraft and help with technical testing throughout their stay at the space station, Haichao will be in charge of administering the mission's research payloads.
Although Haichao's selection for the Shenzhou 16 mission drew a lot of attention from the public, there were also concerns regarding the official images in which he was shown donning spectacles, a piece of equipment that astronauts generally do not wear.
How a person with poor eyesight might be authorised for a space trip has been questioned by several media sites.
In response, Yang Liwei, a senior official in China's manned space project, said that owing to the increasingly specialist nature of mission-related tasks, various crew members needed different degrees.
Numerous publications also discussed the thorough training Haichao had in preparation for the mission, which included sleep deprivation testing and underwater exercises to hone operating abilities.
Shenzhou 16 is China's sixth crewed trip to the newly constructed Tiangong space station since 2021.
The Shenzhou 16 astronauts will take the place of the Shenzhou 15 crew, who have been living on the space station since November 2022.
The Shenzhou 17 mission, the subsequent crew rotation, will take place in November of this year, and the astronauts will stay in orbit until then.
The Tiangong space station's basic construction was only recently completed last year. The space station is expected to be operational for at least 10 years.
China wants to allow other countries' experiments to be conducted on the space station.
Tiangong may wind up being the lone outpost in orbit for scientific research since the ISS is expected to shut down in 2030.