Insight: The woman behind China’s Chang’e-5 Moon mission

The woman behind China’s Chang’e-5 Moon mission

A 24-year-old female space commander has become a viral sensation on Chinese social media for her work on the Chang’e-5 Moon exploration programme. Despite being the youngest commander at the Wenchang Spacecraft Launch Site, Zhou Chengyu is known at work as “Big Sister” as a sign of respect.

Despite being the youngest commander at the Wenchang Spacecraft Launch Site, Zhou Chengyu is known at work as “Big Sister” as a sign of respect.

The Chang’e-5 mission is China’s third successful Moon landing in seven years.

Ms Zhou was in charge of the rocket connector system – described as a pivotal role.

The huge amount of interest in the Guizhou Province native has not appeared to have had much of an effect on her, however. According to news site Duocai Guizhou Net, Ms Zhou declined repeated requests for interviews as she does not wish to let fame get in the way of her work.

The aim of the Chang’e-5 – named after the Chinese moon goddess – is to gather lunar rocks and soil to help scientists learn more about the moon’s formations.

If successful, it would be the first in more than 40 years to bring lunar samples back to Earth, and will make China the third country to do so after the United States and the Soviet Union.

The mission is part of Beijing’s push to become a space superpower, with the Chinese state media casting the “space dream” – as President Xi Jinping calls it.

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