China Deploys Its Most Youthful Astronaut Crew to Date in Pursuit of Lunar Ambitions by 2030

by Chloe Baker
China's youngest astronaut team

China initiated the launch of its most youthful astronaut team ever to its orbital space station last Thursday, as part of the country’s endeavor to send humans to the moon by the close of this decade.

The Shenzhou 17 spacecraft was propelled into space atop a Long March 2-F rocket at 11:14 a.m. local time (0314 GMT) from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center, located on the fringes of the Gobi Desert in Northwestern China.

As reported by the China Manned Space Agency and subsequently corroborated by state-run broadcaster CCTV, the average age of the three-person crew is 38, making it the youngest since the commencement of the space station’s assembly missions. State-run publication China Daily also confirmed this detail.

This latest mission is a component of Beijing’s strategic efforts to send astronauts to the lunar surface before 2030, amid an escalating contest with the United States to achieve novel benchmarks in space exploration. This competition mirrors broader tensions between the two global powers, spanning technology, military capabilities, and diplomatic relations.

The astronaut team—comprising Tang Hongbo, Tang Shengjie, and Jiang Xinlin—will take over duties from a previous crew that has been stationed at the orbital outpost for half a year. Tang Hongbo is an experienced astronaut, having led a three-month space mission in 2021.

During their tenure, the newly deployed team is slated to perform experiments in various domains such as space medicine and space technology. They will also be responsible for the installation and maintenance of equipment within and outside the space station, as stated by the agency.

Earlier last week, the China Manned Space Agency disclosed its intentions to launch a new telescope to explore the universe’s farthest reaches. Although no specific timeline has been set, CCTV has stated that this telescope will enable comprehensive sky surveys and mapping.

China’s ambition to become a leader in space exploration and scientific research is deeply rooted in its history, including millennia of study in astronomy. The nation independently developed its own space station after being barred from participating in the International Space Station, primarily due to American apprehensions regarding the involvement of China’s People’s Liberation Army in the program.

Since its inaugural manned space mission in 2003, China has continued to advance its capabilities, becoming the third country—after the former Soviet Union and the United States—to send a human into space using its own resources. While the United States currently holds an advantage in terms of funding, supply chains, and technical prowess, China has made notable strides, including returning lunar samples to Earth for the first time in years and landing a rover on the moon’s less-explored far side.

The United States has set its sights on returning astronauts to the moon by 2025, with the assistance of private companies like SpaceX and Blue Origin. Both nations have also executed successful Mars rover landings, and China is planning an asteroid mission, following in the footsteps of U.S. endeavors.

Contributions to this report were made by Caroline Chen, video producer at Big Big News, who was present at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center, and journalist Kanis Leung, based in Hong Kong.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about China’s youngest astronaut team

What is the significance of the Shenzhou 17 mission?

The Shenzhou 17 mission is noteworthy for deploying China’s youngest-ever astronaut crew to its orbital space station. It is part of China’s broader ambition to send astronauts to the moon by 2030.

Who are the astronauts on the Shenzhou 17 mission?

The astronauts for the Shenzhou 17 mission are Tang Hongbo, Tang Shengjie, and Jiang Xinlin. Tang Hongbo is a veteran astronaut who led a space mission in 2021.

What is the average age of the crew?

The average age of the three-member crew is 38 years, making it the youngest crew since China began its space station construction missions.

How does this mission fit into China-U.S. rivalry?

The mission is set against the backdrop of an escalating rivalry between China and the United States in the fields of technology, military, and diplomacy. Both countries aim to achieve new milestones in space exploration.

What experiments will the crew conduct?

The crew is slated to conduct experiments in various fields including space medicine and space technology. They will also handle the installation and maintenance of equipment inside and outside the space station.

What is China’s broader goal in space exploration?

China aims to place astronauts on the lunar surface before the end of this decade. This is part of a more extensive agenda to establish itself as a leader in space exploration and scientific research.

What is the U.S.’s current position in space exploration?

The United States aims to return astronauts to the moon by 2025, assisted by private companies like SpaceX and Blue Origin. It currently holds an advantage over China in terms of funding, supply chain, and technical expertise.

Was there any other announcement by the China Manned Space Agency?

Yes, the China Manned Space Agency also revealed plans to send a new telescope to probe deep into the universe. However, no specific timeline for its deployment has been announced.

Why did China build its own space station?

China developed its own space station after being excluded from participation in the International Space Station, largely due to U.S. concerns over the control of the program by China’s People’s Liberation Army.

How does this mission contribute to China’s history in astronomy?

China has a rich history of studying the movement of stars and planets dating back thousands of years. The Shenzhou 17 mission and other recent space endeavors aim to position China as a leader in modern space exploration and science.

More about China’s youngest astronaut team

  • China’s Shenzhou 17 Mission Overview
  • U.S.-China Space Rivalry Explained
  • Timeline of China’s Space Program
  • Milestones in U.S. Space Exploration
  • Introduction to Lunar Exploration Programs
  • China Manned Space Agency Announcements
  • History of China’s Involvement in Astronomy
  • Comparison of U.S. and China’s Space Capabilities
  • Private Companies in U.S. Space Missions
  • China’s Plans for Deep Space Exploration

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Sarah W October 26, 2023 - 7:08 am

The average age is 38? That’s young for astronauts. China’s clearly investing in the next gen of space explorers.

Emily S October 26, 2023 - 7:33 am

So they wanna go to the moon by 2030 huh? US better step up its game. This is how history’s made, people.

Timothy R. October 26, 2023 - 1:40 pm

I wonder how the US feels bout this. Especially with private companies like SpaceX in the mix, its a whole new ball game.

John D. October 26, 2023 - 2:24 pm

Wow, China’s really pushing the envelope with their youngest crew ever. This space race is heating up, and not just in the rockets!

Alan J. October 26, 2023 - 4:56 pm

I never knew China had such a rich history in astronomy. Thousands of years of study and now this. They’ve got their eyes on the stars, literally.

Rachel K October 26, 2023 - 11:12 pm

Telescope to probe deep into universe, astronauts on the moon, whats next? I cant keep up with all these advancements.

Mike T October 27, 2023 - 12:31 am

its about more than just space, right? I mean they’re competing in tech and military too. Scary and exciting at the same time.


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