China's Shenzhou-16 Mission Brings Civilian Astronaut to Tiangong Space Station for Experimentation
China launched the Shenzhou-16 mission with the first civilian astronaut, Gui Haichao, on board.
The mission will take place at the Tiangong space station, which is currently in its application and development stage.
The crew will conduct experiments in various fields, including space time-frequency systems, general relativity, and the origin of life.
The mission represents a regular crew rotation flight and is significant in accumulating experience in human spaceflight operations.
China plans to send a crewed mission to the Moon by the end of the decade and is pursuing plans to build a moon base.
China has successfully docked the final module of Tiangong, a space station called "heavenly palace", with the core structure.
The station carries several pieces of cutting-edge scientific equipment, including the world's first space-based cold atomic clock system.
Tiangong is expected to remain in low Earth orbit at an altitude between 400 and 450 kilometers for at least 10 years, and is constantly crewed by rotating teams of three astronauts.
China's space agency has reiterated its desire for international cooperation in the project, and plans to send two crewed space missions to Tiangong every year, with the next mission expected in October.