Experts call for closer Sino-US space exchanges

Updated: 2014-06-06 09:28

By Zhao Lei (China Daily)

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Deeper exchanges and closer ties between the space agencies of China and the United States will help the two countries to broaden their capabilities, Chinese space experts said.

Their remarks came as a US research institute urged Washington to re-examine its space policy that bars NASA from working on projects with China.

"Dialogue and cooperation will benefit both nations in their space programs," Xu Jing, editor of the Space International magazine, said on Thursday.

"As far as I know, most Chinese space scientists will welcome more exchanges and communication with their US peers," she said.

"I think now is the right time for the US government and Congress to lift the unreasonable ban on NASA's contact with China because doing so is in the interest of their nation."

Xu said China has made remarkable strides in space exploration, significantly narrowing the gap between it and the US.

"The US will only cooperate with us after we have reached the same level as them in technology and capability," she said.

An insider with a State-owned space enterprise who declined to be identified, citing company policy, said Chinese space scientists and engineers are placed under special scrutiny by the US State Department when they apply for a visa to attend international meetings in the US, even at the invitation of institutes in the country.

"Although they face many obstacles, researchers from both nations have begun to use various occasions to share thoughts in fundamental sciences related to space exploration," she said, noting that there are no cooperative projects between the two countries when it comes to space activity.

The US National Research Council said on Wednesday in a report ordered by Congress that the ban on NASA-China ties "denies the US partnership with a nation that will probably be capable of making truly significant contributions to international collaborative missions".

The report said, "It may be time to re-examine whether this policy serves the long-term interests of the United States."

NASA is prohibited from bilateral cooperation with China by a federal law introduced in 2011 by Frank Wolf, chairman of the House Commerce-Justice-Science Appropriations Subcommittee.

Under the law, neither NASA nor the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy may "develop, design, plan, promulgate, implement or execute a bilateral policy, program, order or contract of any kind to participate, collaborate or coordinate bilaterally in any way with China or any Chinese-owned company", including "the hosting of official Chinese visitors at facilities belonging to or utilized by NASA".

"Current federal law preventing NASA from participating in bilateral activities with the Chinese serves only to hinder US ability to bring China into its sphere of international partnerships and reduces substantially the potential international capability that might be pooled to reach Mars," the report said.

A China National Space Administration publicity official who did not want to be identified said the administration is not in the right position to comment on the US report.

Xinhua contributed to this story.

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