23 October 2016
NASA scientists are forbidden to work with the Chinese space program thanks to a 2011 bill passed by US Congress, citing security concerns. Photo: Internet
NASA scientists are forbidden to work with the Chinese space program thanks to a 2011 bill passed by US Congress, citing security concerns. Photo: Internet

Space: China seeks cooperation with the US

If memory serves, the Moon is America’s turf.

Over the course of six manned missions, the United States sent 24 astronauts to the Moon, 12 of whom actually walked around on the lunar surface, planting flags and stopping here and there to pose for pictures.

Manned missions were so A-OK that at least one astronaut famously took time out to hit some golf balls.

That’s all to say that when it comes to the Moon, the US has been there, done that.

This past Sunday, China, with space ambitions of its own, floated an open invitation to the US for a joint cosmic road trip to the Moon— or to Mars, to your space station or ours, wherever, whenever.

“The future of space exploration lies in international cooperation. It’s true for us, and for the United States too,” said China’s first astronaut Yang Liwei, according to Xinhua, China’s official press agency.

His words were echoed by Zhou Jianping, chief engineer of China’s manned space program.

Zhou said, “It is well understood that the United States is a global leader in space technology. But China is no less ambitious in contributing to human development.”

“Cooperation between major space players will be conducive to the development of all mankind,” Zhou added.

Chinese President Xi Jinping asked scientists to help realize China’s dream of becoming a global space giant as the Communist nation marked its first Space Day, an annual celebration newly designated by the government, according to NDTV.

“In establishing Space Day, we are commemorating history, passing on the spirit, and galvanizing popular enthusiasm for science, exploration of the unknown and innovation, particularly among young people,” Xi said.

He asked space scientists and engineers to make China a space power.

“Becoming an aerospace power has always been a dream we’ve been striving for,” Xi added.

With or without some sort of collaborative effort with the US, China is nothing but committed.

Xu Dazhe, director of the China National Space Administration (CNSA), at a press conference on April 22 in Beijing, described China’s Mars mission, slated for 2020, as one which includes an orbiter, lander, and rover which will “walk on Mars”, according to a press release.

China is also building its own space station with the core module to be lofted in 2018, followed by another in 2020; the station is expected to be operational by 2022.

In 2013, three Chinese astronauts spent 15 days in orbit aboard an experimental space lab, the Tiangong 1, before returning to Earth.

Later that year, the Chang’e 3 probe made the first soft landing on the moon since 1976 when it deployed the Jade Rabbit moon rover.

The US may have to watch China from the sidelines as NASA scientists are currently forbidden from working with the Chinese space program thanks to a 2011 bill passed by US Congress, citing security concerns.

Be that as it may, China still hopes for an American assist, with Xu the CNSA director offering “proof” that NASA is on board.

“When I saw the US film The Martian, which envisages China-US cooperation on a Mars rescue mission under emergency circumstances, it shows that our US counterparts very much hope to cooperate with us,” Xu said, according to Reuters.

“However, it’s very regrettable that, for reasons everyone is aware of, there are currently some impediments to cooperation,” he said.

As nutty as that sounds, crazier things have happened.

For chief engineer Zhou, according to Xinhua, the movie simply reflects what most people want.

“Many American astronauts and scientists that I have met said they would like to work with us, if given the freedom of choice.”

Despite Washington’s ban on cooperation, the two governments held their first civil space talks in September to discuss each other’s plans and policies, Reuters noted, with Xu on record saying that talks would continue this year.

Since NASA’s last Moon walk in 1972—the same year Richard Nixon visited China to normalize relations—and the Skylab space station, the focus of the space agency’s manned operations have been the Space Shuttle program (ending in 2011) and ISS Expeditions (ongoing, but scheduled to end in 2024 with a possible extension to 2028).

NASA’s current space objectives are to capture an asteroid, tow it into orbit near Earth, and send astronauts to visit the space rock in 2020 as it prepares for a manned mission to Mars in 2030, according to Inquisitr.

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