China to send first civilian into space on Tuesday. Who is the civilian astronaut?

China to send first civilian into space on Tuesday. Who is the civilian astronaut?

Under Chinese President Xi Jinping, the country's plans for a "space dream" have been put into overdrive.

China will send its first civilian astronaut into space on Tuesday (May 30) as part of a crewed mission to the Tiangong space station, the China Manned Space Agency announced on Monday. Until now, all Chinese astronauts sent into space have been part of the People's Liberation Army (PLA). And the news to send the first civilian astronaut into space comes as China has invested billions of dollars into its military-run space programme, trying to catch up with the United States and Russia after years of belatedly matching their milestones.

Who is the civilian astronaut?

Gui Haichao, a professor at the Beijing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics is China's first civilian to be sent into space. Addressing a press conference on Monday, China Manned Space Agency Spokesperson Lin Xiqiang said that Professor Haichao would mainly be responsible for the on-orbit operation of space science experimental payloads, the news agency AFP reported. 

China to send first civilian into space on Tuesday. Who is the civilian astronaut?
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Haichao's university said that he hails from an ordinary family in western Yunnan province. In a social media post, the university said Haichao "first felt the attraction of aerospace" listening to the news of China's first man in space, Yang Liwei, on campus radio in 2003. 

The mission and China's 'space dream'

As per state media, the commander of this mission is Major General Jing Haipeng, and the third crew member is engineer Zhu Yangzhu. The Manned Space Agency said the astronauts would take off from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Centre in northwest China on Tuesday at 9:31 am (0131 GMT). 

Under Chinese President Xi Jinping, the country's plans for a "space dream" have been put into overdrive. China is planning to build a base on the Moon and the National Space Administration said it aims to launch a crewed lunar mission by 2029.

AFP reported on Monday that the final module of the T-shaped Tiangong successfully docked with the core structure last year. State news agency Xinhua reported that the station carries a number of pieces of cutting-edge science equipment, including "the world's first space-based cold atomic clock system".

Once finished, Tiangong is expected to remain in low Earth orbit at between 400 and 450 kilometres (250 and 280 miles) above the planet for at least a decade. It would be constantly crewed by rotating teams of three astronauts, who will conduct scientific experiments and help test new technologies.

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