China launches new space crew ahead of 2030 moon expedition

The Shenzhou-16 spacecraft is headed towards China’s space station

China plans to set foot on the moon before 2030, and it is launching a new space crew in efforts to do so.

The republic announced a three-person mission as the next phase of its “burgeoning space program”, the Associated Press reported, as China hopes to expand its orbiting space station.

The Shenzhou-16 shuttle took off from the edge of the Gobi Desert headed for China’s space station, CNBC confirmed, and “will relieve the crew of Shenzhou-15, who have been living there since November”. In a statement, the China Manned Space Agency (CMSA) declared the launch a “complete success”.

Lin Xiqiang, deputy director of the CMSA, is pushing towards a goal of 2030 for the country to get boots on the moon.

“Our astronauts will walk on the moon, collect samples around the landing site and perform some in situ research,” The Washington Post cited Lin as saying, “this will lead off our manned missions from low Earth orbit to deep space and help deepen mankind’s knowledge about the origin and evolution of the moon and the solar system”.

The latest development is reminiscent of the “space race” of the 1960s and 70s between America and the Soviet Union, Nasa administrator Bill Nelson told Politico in January, “sounding the alarm” on the security implications of Chinese moon ambitions.

However, the Associated Press added that “American spending, supply chains and capabilities are believed to give it a significant edge over China” currently.

Elsewhere, the launch has seemingly been welcomed by Space X chief executive and Twitter owner Elon Musk, state broadcaster CGTN reported, who said the Chinese program is “far more advanced than people realise”.

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Rebekah Evans joined The Week as newsletter editor in 2023 and has written on subjects ranging from Ukraine and Afghanistan to fast fashion and "brotox". She started her career at Reach plc, where she cut her teeth on news, before pivoting into personal finance at the height of the pandemic and cost-of-living crisis. Social affairs is another of her passions, and she has interviewed people from across the world and from all walks of life. Rebekah completed an NCTJ with the Press Association and has written for publications including The Guardian, The Week magazine, the Press Association and local newspapers.