China Launches First Civilian Into Space

    China Launches First Civilian Into Space
    Last updated May 30, 2023
    Image credit: Wikimedia Commons


    • China on Tuesday sent a new three-person crew, including the PRC's first civilian astronaut, to its Tiangong Space Station from the Jiuquan Launch Center in the country's northwest.[1]
    • Gui Haichao, a payload expert at Beijing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics, is China's first astronaut who isn't part of the Chinese armed forces and is primarily responsible for performing experiments with scientific payloads, the China Manned Space Agency said.[2]
    • The crew of the Shenzhou-16 mission — the PRC's fifth manned mission to the space station since 2021 — will remain in orbit for five months, replacing the three Shenzhou-15 astronauts that were launched to the now fully operational space station in November 2022.[3]
    • The Tiangong space station will be permanently manned by rotating teams of three astronauts and, according to Chinese state media, features a range of advanced scientific equipment, including the "world's first space-based cold atomic clock system."[4]
    • The Chinese space agency said Beijing wants to expand its orbiting Tiangong space station and confirmed plans to put astronauts on the moon before 2030 for a "short stay" as well as joint exploration by humans and robots.[5]
    • In 2003, China became the third country after the former Soviet Union and the US to put a human into space. It began building its own station after being excluded from the International Space Station due to US objections over the close ties between China's space program and the People's Liberation Army.[6]


    Pro-establishment narrative

    There's no doubt that China has entered a space race with the US. Given the lack of transparency surrounding Beijing's accelerated space program, present space cooperation curbs with China should be maintained. Moreover, the US must ensure that it reaches the resource-rich parts of the moon before the PRC in order to avoid Beijing claiming these regions for itself. Washington must ensure that NASA has sufficient resources not to jeopardize its science and exploration missions.

    Establishment-critical narrative

    That the US and China are now in a genuine space race is partly Washington's own fault. Faced with legislation prohibiting NASA from cooperating with China and space accords unilaterally established by NASA that critical countries say are designed to ensure US dominance in space, China ramped up its own space program and is now also working with Russia on a planned lunar base. The race for the moon and its resources — such as water and rare minerals — has begun, and it is by no means certain that the US will win.

    Nerd narrative

    There's a 19% chance that China will land the next person on the Moon, according to the Metaculus prediction community.

    Establishment split



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