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China's space station looks ahead for global cooperation

Editor: Li Kun 丨CCTV.com

08-11-2015 14:46 BJT

By Tom McGregor, freelancer based in Beijing

The U.S. space program, National Aeronautics Space Administration (NASA), is currently the world's leader for space missions and technology. NASA has taken charge of the International Space Station (ISS), and coordinating with space programs from 14 other countries.

The ISS takes prides in its global support; however in 2011 U.S. Congress voted to forbid NASA from holding bilateral contacts with the Chinese space program. Congress expressed concerns that NASA might leak sensitive technology information to the Chinese military.

The law has hampered space diplomacy between both nations. Nevertheless, China's space program continues to make remarkable progress with its space missions. In 2013, a three-person crew aboard the space module – Shenzhou-10 – was launched into orbit and completed its mission.

1st Chinese experiment onboard ISS

Although Congress does not permit NASA to communicate with China's space program, they can still collaborate indirectly. The Beijing Institute of Technology (BIT) will pay $US200,000 to Houston-based, NanoRocks, to conduct genetics experiments onboard ISS while in orbit.

This marks China's first science experiment on the International Space Station. BIT would deliver experimental materials to American scientists for conducting tests onboard ISS, then data test results get transmitted back to China's space program.

The experiment involves testing the impact of space radiation on DNA. NASA has approved the project earlier this month, which coincided with an announcement that Kirk Shireman was appointed the new manager for the ISS program at the Johnson space Center in Houston.

China's 3-stages for space station development

China's space program had introduced its space station development by launching three rounds of space modules, known as – Tiangong-1, Tiangong-2 and Tiangong-3 –that would go into orbit.

China's first space station, already in orbit, is Tiangong-1, which was launched on September 29, 2011. It served as a manned laboratory and experimental test-bed to demonstrate its orbiting and space docking capabilities.

Beijing is expected to launchTiangong-2 in 2016 as a second prototype space station that can hold a three-person crew. Later on in 2023, China will launch the Tiangong-3 after de-orbiting its first two existing space stations.

Tiangong-3 will consist of three connecting modules; two of which will hold laboratories, while the other module would be filled with cargo pods to bring up scientists and supplies. The space station would cover 60 sgm (square meters) for three astronauts assigned to long-term missions in orbit.

Welcoming foreign astronauts to China

Chinese scientists understand that more foreign expertise, as well as technology and equipment upgrades can boost their space program. Shortly after conducting its space mission, the three-person crew of the Shenzhou-10 had spoken exclusively with the American media.

Shenzhou-10's commander, Nie Haisheng, was the most vocal proponent to encourage cooperation with NASA and other space programs from around the world.

"As an astronaut, I have a strong desire to fly with other astronauts from other countries." Commander Nie told CNN. "I also look forward to going to the International Space Station. Space is a family affair; many countries are developing their space programs."

He added, "And China, as a big country, should make our own contributions to this field."

Ironically, the US government has imposed massive spending cuts on NASA, which could mean that ISS may suspend operations by 2023. While at that time in the future, Tiangong-3 is scheduled for orbit. Perhaps, NASA astronauts may join their peers in China for space missions.

Building a better global space station

China would likely represent the very essence of space missions and technology development in the years ahead. Therefore, Beijing hopes to lure more foreign talent to upgrade its space program.

Meanwhile, other national governments are scaling down their space programs, which would mean that foreign-born astronauts will be looking for new employment. Well, they should consider visiting China for their job search.

 

( The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Panview or CCTV.com. )

 

 

Panview offers a new window of understanding the world as well as China through the views, opinions, and analysis of experts. We also welcome outside submissions, so feel free to send in your own editorials to "globalopinion@vip.cntv.cn" for consideration.

Panview offers an alternative angle on China and the rest of the world through the analyses and opinions of experts. We also welcome outside submissions, so feel free to send in your own editorials to "globalopinion@vip.cntv.cn" for consideration.

 

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