Notably absent from the talks were NASA Administrator Charles Bolden and Naoki Okumura, president of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency. Bolden is barred by Congress from holding bilateral talks with China, while Japan is in a quasi-military confrontation with China over three uninhabited islands in the East China Sea that may have oil and gas deposits.
“China, as a responsible country, would like to make more positive contributions to peaceful use of outer space,” says Wang Zhaoyao, director general of the China Manned Space Agency, which publicized the talks on its website.
Bolden, a former space shuttle commander, has visited China officially as NASA administrator and toured its human spaceflight facilities. But while he is allowed to attend multilateral gatherings such as the IAC in China, he apparently has been careful to avoid one-on-one talks with Chinese officials since Congress prohibited them in the 2011 NASA spending bill.
Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.), chairman of the House Appropriations subcommittee that oversees NASA spending, and a sharp critic of China's leadership on human rights and other grounds, reiterated his position Oct. 8 in a six-page letter to Bolden on the subject.
“In addition to the myriad human rights and religious freedom abuses described [in the letter], there are serious concerns about widespread espionage against the U.S., including NASA, as well as recent developments in China's space warfare program,” Wolf wrote.
Among officials meeting Wang and Yang Liwei, who flew China's first human space mission a decade ago, were Jean-Jacques Dordain, director general of the European Space Agency (ESA), and Sergey Saveliev, deputy head of Russian space agency Roscosmos and the highest-ranking Russian space official at the Beijing congress. ESA and Roscosmos have already agreed to joint robotic Mars exploration in 2016-18, and in Beijing their leaders agreed to pursue three-way robotic and human cooperation with China, according to the Chinese agency.
Ukraine, which retains key Soviet-era space-industry assets, including the Yuzhnoye/Yuzhmash launch-vehicle complex, also has held space-cooperation talks with China and hopes to reopen old business ties with Beijing in that arena. “People forget that the Chinese space program was based on Soviet technologies,” says Yuri Alexseyev, chairman of the State Space Agency of Ukraine.
Tap the icon in the digital edition of AW&ST for a look at the planned Chinese space station, or go to AviationWeek.com/tiangong