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  • U.S. Opens Door to China Space Cooperation
    Posted by Jeffrey Manber 8:05 PM on Nov 17, 2009

    The bilateral discussions in Beijing just concluded with a joint statement that suggests that Obama's first major policy shift on space exploration may be in the works.

    The statement out of Beijing contains two interesting data points on space, the first that at long last the United States is willing to engage the Chinese in discussions on human flight:

    The United States and China look forward to expanding discussions on space science cooperation and starting a dialogue on human space flight and space exploration, based on the principles of transparency, reciprocity and mutual benefit.

    It is hard to say what is really going on--whether it was thrown in at the last minute or reflects a genuine new opportunity to use Chinese human flight capabilities to shore up our reliance on the Russians come the retirement of the space shuttle fleet. The key of course is mutual benefit--is it in NASA's programmatic interests to explore use of China's space capabilities? That's the key question.

    But what I found most interesting was the final sentence on space as released by the White House:

    Both sides welcome reciprocal visits of the NASA Administrator and the appropriate Chinese counterpart in 2010.

    Isn't it interesting that the "appropriate Chinese counterpart" is not identified? Frank Morring of this magazine alerted readers weeks ago that a power struggle was underway regarding the organization that will handle international agreements for human space flight.

    The ambiguity of the Chinese side of the equation certainly suggests that indeed some sort of shift may well be underway--but it also signals difficulty in meeting the first stated objective: transparency. We don't even know who would meet with Bolden...so don't expect any substantial progress real soon.

    Tags: os99, China, NASA, cooperation

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