China probes space deals

New chief says the sky is now the limit

China Daily (Canada) - - FRONT PAGE - By CHEN WEIHUA in Wash­ing­ton chen­wei­hua@chi­nadai­lyusa.com

Xu Dazhe, the new chief of the China’s space in­dus­try, is seek­ing more in­ter­na­tional co­op­er­a­tion in Wash­ing­ton less than a month af­ter his coun­try’s first suc­cess­ful soft land­ing on the moon.

Xu said China’s space pol­icy has al­ways been very open. “We are will­ing to co­op­er­ate with all the coun­tries in the world, in­clud­ing the United States as well as de­vel­op­ing coun­tries,” he said on Thurs­day on the side­lines of the In­ter­na­tional Space Ex­plo­ration Fo­rum held at the US State Depart­ment.

A space sci­en­tist by pro­fes­sion, Xu was pro­moted less than three weeks ago to be the head of the China Na­tional Space Ad­min­is­tra­tion, from his pre­vi­ous po­si­tion as head of China Aero­space Sci­ence and Tech­nol­ogy Corp.

Xu said that at­tend­ing the meet­ing shortly af­ter tak­ing the new job is to send a sig­nal to all his coun­ter­parts that China is will­ing to strengthen co­op­er­a­tion with other na­tions.

China has been con­duct­ing co­op­er­a­tion in space ex­plo­ration with Rus­sia and the Euro­pean Union. The EU par­tic­i­pated in the ob­ser­va­tion of China’s moon land­ing.

China has also been launch­ing satel­lites for other na­tions, in­clud­ing send­ing into or­bit a telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions satel­lite for Bo­livia on Dec 21.

How­ever, co­op­er­a­tion be­tween China and the Na­tional Aero­nau­tics & Space Ad­min­is­tra­tion (NASA) has been largely banned un­der a China ex­clu­sion pol­icy passed by the US Congress in 2011, pro­hibit­ing NASA from us­ing its funds to host Chi­nese visi­tors at NASA fa­cil­i­ties, cit­ing se­cu­rity con­cerns. The pol­icy bans NASA from work­ing bi­lat­er­ally with Chi­nese na­tion­als af­fil­i­ated with a Chi­nese gov­ern­ment en­tity or en­ter­prises.

The pol­icy has sparked protests from space sci­en­tists, in­clud­ing some in Europe and the US. So when NASA barred Chi­nese re­searchers from at­tend­ing a Ke­pler space tele­scope pro­gram con­fer­ence held at the Ames Re­search Center in Cal­i­for­nia in early Novem­ber due to na­tional se­cu­rity con­cerns, sev­eral US sci­en­tists threat­ened to boy­cott the meet­ing.

China protested the dis­crim­i­na­tion. US Repub­li­can Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Frank Wolf, who drafted the 2011 law, is­sued a state­ment say­ing that NASA had mis­in­ter­preted the law. He said the law re­stricts pri­mar­ily bi­lat­eral, not mul­ti­lat­eral meet­ings and ac­tiv­i­ties with the Chi­nese gov­ern­ment or Chi­nese-owned com­pa­nies and it places no re­stric­tions on ac­tiv­i­ties in­volv­ing in­di­vid­ual Chi­nese na­tion­als un­less they are act­ing as of­fi­cial rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the Chi­nese gov­ern­ment.

NASA ad­min­is­tra­tor Charles Bolden later re-in­vited the Chi­nese par­tic­i­pants in early Oc­to­ber, but it turned out to be too late due to the par­tial shut­down of the fed­eral gov­ern­ment.

Xu praised the US for its ad­vanced space tech­nol­ogy and said China has co­op­er­ated with the NASA be­fore but it came to a halt due to the law.

He said that the US in­vi­ta­tion to China to the fo­rum and his par­tic­i­pa­tion have sent a pos­i­tive sig­nal.

In Wash­ing­ton, Xu is also ex­pected to at­tend a head of space agen­cies sum­mit on ex­plo­ration on Fri­day, or­ga­nized by the In­ter­na­tional Academy of Astro­nau­tics.

China was in the spot­light in the Thurs­day fo­rum which gath­ered min­is­ters and high-level of­fi­cials from some 35 space-far­ing na­tions to talk about the op­por­tu­ni­ties and chal­lenges in space ex­plo­ration.

US Deputy Sec­re­tary of State Wil­liam Burns lauded China for be­com­ing the third coun­try in the world to com­plete a suc­cess­ful land­ing on the moon in 2013.

Other ma­jor events in the past year in­cluded In­dia’s launch of its Mars Or­biter Mis­sion and the US’ Voy­ager I be­com­ing the first man-made ob­ject to leave so­lar sys­tem and en­ter in­ter­stel­lar space.

Burns em­pha­sized the im­por­tance of in­ter­na­tional co­op­er­a­tion in space ex­plo­ration. “The ques­tion fac­ing us to­day is whether we can muster the courage and po­lit­i­cal will to ad­vance space ex­plo­ration and en­sure that co­op­er­a­tion con­tin­ues to trump com­pe­ti­tion,” he said at the fo­rum.

NASA has signed more than 4,000 agree­ments with more than 120 coun­tries and in­ter­na­tional or­ga­ni­za­tions and the In­ter­na­tional Space Sta­tion (ISS) has wel­comed more than 80 coun­tries to par­tic­i­pate in its re­search, ac­cord­ing to Burns.

The White House an­nounced on Wed­nes­day that it has ap­proved an ex­ten­sion of the ISS un­til at least 2024, from the pre­vi­ous 2020. But the fund­ing is still yet to be ap­proved by the US Congress.

John Hol­dren, di­rec­tor of the White House Of­fice of Sci­ence and Tech­nol­ogy, de­scribed the ISS as piv­otal to in­ter­na­tional co­op­er­a­tion in space to­day.

“We have been in­vest­ing in heavy lift launch ve­hi­cles, in­creas­ing our in­vest­ment in trans­for­ma­tive tech­nol­ogy crit­i­cal to the hu­man mis­sion in space,” Hol­dren said.

CHEN WEIHUA / CHINA DAILY

Xu Dazhe, head of the China Na­tional Space Ad­min­is­tra­tion, talks to re­porters dur­ing the cof­fee break of the In­ter­na­tional Space Ex­plo­ration Fo­rum held in the US State Depart­ment in Wash­ing­ton on Thurs­day.

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