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Space station eyes cooperation with other countries

Zhao Lei
Updated: Sep 11,2014 2:08 PM     China Daily

China is open to cooperation with foreign nations on its manned space station project, according to a senior space official.

“We reserved a number of platforms that can be used for international cooperative projects in our future space station when we designed it,” Yang Liwei, deputy director of China Manned Space Agency, said at a news conference following the opening ceremony of the 27th Planetary Congress of the Association of Space Explorers in Beijing on Wednesday.

“In addition to collaboration in applied experiments, we also designed adapters that can dock with other nations’ spacecraft,” he said.

Yang, China’s first astronaut, who went into space in 2003, said the country is willing to deepen collaboration on its space station with other nations in a wide range of fields such as equipment development, applied technology and joint operation.

“We will share our knowledge, experience and achievements in space activities with other countries, especially developing countries,” Yang added.

China plans to launch the core module of its space station in 2018 to test related technologies and engineering issues, and the whole station will become fully operational around 2022, according to Yang.

China has been in comprehensive cooperation with many foreign space agencies regarding aerospace medicine, applied sciences and astronaut selection and training.

“For instance, our scientists and engineers conducted 17 experiments pertaining to life science in space with the German Aerospace Center during the unmanned Shenzhou-8 spacecraft mission in 2011,” Yang said.

During an international workshop on human space technology in Beijing last year, Yang said China would be happy to help train astronauts for other countries and organizations and would also be glad to provide rides to foreign astronauts.

“We will welcome foreign astronauts who have received our training to work in our future space station,” Yang said.

China launched its manned space program in September 1992. So far, the nation has sent 10 Shenzhou spacecraft — five of them manned — and the Tiangong-1 space laboratory into space.

Andy Turnage, secretary general of the Association of Space Explorer’s international executive committee, said China is “serious and enthusiastic” in space activities and members of the association should encourage their governments to work with China in this field.

Responding to questions on the US ban on space cooperation with China by its officials and scientists, Turnage, who has been executive director of the association’s US branch since 1995, said: “The US policy with regard to China is not helpful in space. ... We can move beyond the politics and start moving into technologies and cooperative attitude.”

The US National Research Council said in June in a report mandated by the US 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.”

Turnage suggested that spacefaring country can all work closer with each other to push forward humanity’s space exploration.

“We have 50 years of competition in space and haven’t gotten past that yet, but we will.”

Founded in 1985, the Association of Space Explorers is an international nonprofit professional and educational organization of nearly 400 astronauts from 35 nations.

This is the first time that China has hosted the association’s planetary congress, which enables astronauts from all spacefaring nations to meet and exchange information about human spaceflight operations and future plans.

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