Meet 'Big Sister' Zhou Chengyu – China's Youngest Ever Space Commander

By Alistair Baker-Brian, December 16, 2020

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The images of the Chinese national flag on the Moon’s surface made headlines in China and abroad following the landing of the Chang’e 5 spacecraft. But that wasn’t the only thing that caught people’s attention. 

Zhou Chengyu, a 24-year-old from southwestern China’s Guizhou province, is China’s youngest ever space commander. She has played a key role in the Chang’e 5 space mission which was launched from the Wenchang Spacecraft Launch Site on Hainan island. 

BBC reported that Zhou was in charge of the rocket connector system, a “pivotal role.” The Chang’e 5 spacecraft aims to gather lunar rocks and soil for analysis. The mission marked China’s third successful Moon-landing in seven years.  

Zhou’s story has received attention from Chinese state-run media as well as overseas media outlets, although she reportedly doesn’t want to let the attention get in the way of her job. 

Netizens have been equally excited by Zhou’s achievements. Despite her young age, many have referred to her as ‘dajie’ (big sister), as a mark of respect. Some Weibo users joked that this “big sister is not so big.” Others referred to her as a “Chinese star” and a “hero.” Some users went so far as to call her the “space Mulan.” 

The Chang’e 5 spacecraft was named after the Chinese moon goddess Chang’e, a figure which appears in Chinese legend and literature. It is perhaps fitting then, that a strong young woman should be at the forefront of China’s space exploration program. 

READ MORE: China’s First Man in Space

[Cover image via @安庆师范大学资源环境学院/Weibo]

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