NASA chief expects joint space effort

Updated: 2016-05-10 11:10

By Chen Weihua in Washington(China Daily USA)

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'I believe it will happen one of these days,' Bolden says of US-China cooperation

NASA Administrator Charles Bolden remains optimistic about future space cooperation between China and the US despite legal hurdles.

The US Congress passed a law in 2011 banning NASA from engaging in bilateral agreements and coordination with China.

"I believe it will happen one of these days," Bolden said in a talk at the Brookings Institution on Monday about the prospects of futures US-China space engagement.

He noted that the US now works with China on "an incredible basis" in terms of earth science to look at glacial characterization in the Himalayas, to look at things such as earthquakes, known as geo data, and some aspects of lunar science.

A former NASA astronaut, Bolden reminded the audience that unlike corporations, government is inherently slow.

"Am I happy? No. But are we making progress? Yes," he said.

He called for patience and cited the example that even during the height of the Cold War, the US and the Soviet Union collaborated in space. That cooperation continued with Russia after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Russia is now a key partner in the International Space Station, a joint venture that also involves the US, Japan, Europe and Canada.

"So patience is a virtue. It will happen in time," he said of the possible collaboration.

Bolden admitted it won't happen during his tenure as National Aeronautics and Space Administration administrator, which ends with the departure of President Barack Obama in January.

"In a world [in which] we tend to concentrate way too much on confrontation, it is with the US, Russia and China that we can find a lot of common ground in the area of space," said John Allen, a senior fellow at the Brookings and a retired US Marine Corps four-star general, who moderated Monday's talk.

At the International Astronautical Congress in Israel last October, Bolden said he believed the ban on NASA's partnership with China wouldn't last.

"The reason I think that where we are today is temporary is because of a practical statement that we will find ourselves on the outside looking in, because everybody ... who has any hope of a human space flight program ... will go to whoever will fly their people."

China and the US agreed in their annual Strategic and Economic Dialogue (S&ED) last June to establish regula consultations on civil space cooperation.

China has a robust space program in cooperation with many European countries, under which China hopes to complete a space station by 2022.

While the US has embarked on a Mars mission, China also approved its first independent Mars-exploration program last month, and will launch its first Mars probe in 2020.

China's previous effort to explore Mars with Russia in 2011 failed after the Russian launch vehicle carrying Yinghuo-1, China's first Mars probe, crashed into the Pacific Ocean.

Over the years, Chinese officials have called for more international cooperation, including with NASA, in its space programs.

On Monday, Bolden asked how many in the audience saw the 2015 film The Martian and read the book.

In the movie, the China National Space Administration offers its Taiyang Shen (a classified booster that can carry a payload to Mars) to NASA to help save astronaut Mark Watney, played by Matt Damon.

Zhao Lei and Ma Chi contributed to this story.

NASA chief expects joint space effort

(China Daily USA 05/10/2016 page2)