Chief Executive John Lee has sent his congratulations on the launch of the Shenzhou-16 spacecraft, saying Hong Kong is a step closer to having its first taikonaut take part in a space mission.
Three taikonauts from the mainland were sent to the Tiangong space station on a five-month mission on Tuesday morning.
Onboard the Shenzhou-16 were mission commander Jing Haipeng on his fourth extra-terrestrial trip, engineer Zhu Yangzhu and Beihang University professor Gui Haichao, the first Chinese civilian to travel to space.
"Our country has made great progress and success [in its manned space missions] along the way. This is something I take great pride in. I'm honoured," Lee told reporters after watching a live broadcast of the launch.
The CE also noted that more than 10 candidates from Hong Kong and Macau will go to Beijing for a second round of screening next month, in the hope of serving as payload specialists on a future mission.
Lee said the Hong Kong hopefuls come from government departments, the Hospital Authority, universities, as well as other organisations and corporations.
"I'm rooting for our candidates. I hope that one of them will make it and become part of the manned mission to contribute to our country's space missions and bring glory to us," Lee said.
"This selection shows our country attaches great importance to our youth development. This also shows our country's confidence in our science and technology. This inspires many young people here to take an interest in technology."
The China Manned Space Agency launched a recruitment exercise for up to 14 taikonauts last year, with mainland authorities looking for potential recruits from Hong Kong and Macau for the first time.
Meanwhile, the director of the University of Hong Kong's Laboratory for Space Research, Quentin Parker, said Hong Kong could play a larger role in the development of a burgeoning new space economy.
"Hong Kong is a massive global financial centre, and one thing a new space economy needs is investments. If you have the right expertise – in fintech, in investments and compliance and regulatory framework – to actually make sure that the investment money goes into the right start-up companies in the new space economy, this can help with all of it," Parker told RTHK.
"Globally, the new space economy is going to be a US$1 trillion business before the end of this decade. I believe that Hong Kong, given its tremendous regulatory and compliance infrastructure, is trusted around the world for IPOs, its great fintech... you know, I believe that these are areas where Hong Kong can play a major role in funnelling investment funding into the right kinds of start-ups and companies in the new space economy."
Last updated: 2023-05-30 HKT 16:20