China's space station to open for foreign peers

Updated: 2013-09-18 00:05

By Zhao Lei (China Daily)

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China is willing to provide training and open the Chinese space station to foreign astronauts, senior space flight officials said.

We would like to train astronauts from other countries and organizations that have such a demand, and we would be glad to provide trips to foreign astronauts," said Yang Liwei, deputy director of China Manned Space Agency. We will also welcome foreign astronauts who have received our training to work in our future space station."

Yang, China's first astronaut, who went into space in 2003, said many countries submitted proposals to the Chinese government during the development of the space station, hoping China would help train their astronauts and then send them to the station to conduct scientific experiments.

The effect of including foreign participants in our space programs is not only that these nations can send their people to outer space, but also that we will enable them to develop their own space projects."

Yang made the remarks during the five-day United Nations/China Workshop on Human Space Technology, which opened in Beijing on Monday.

A total of 150 participants from more than 20 nations and regions attended the conference. They are expected to discuss new space projects, microgravity research, international cooperation as well as awareness education for the public.

China has been involved in a host of cooperative projects with other nations, according to Yang.

China and Russia have collaborated on astronaut training, spacecraft technology and extra-vehicular suits, and we are cooperating with our French counterparts on a variety of experiments in astrobiology and space medicine," he said, adding that Chinese and German scientists also performed astrobiological experiments during the unmanned Shenzhou VIII mission in 2011.

Astronauts from the European Space Agency and their Chinese peers have visited each other's training facilities, laying a solid foundation for further communication.

The exchanges with other countries and organizations will make us familiar with their techniques and experiences, hence boosting our research and development of the space station."

Receiving congratulations on the 10th anniversary of his space mission, Yang said China is also determined to assist other developing economies in the space flight, noting that existing cooperative projects between China and developing economies focus on the application of astronautic and space technologies, and training for professionals.

He also said his agency has signed many agreements with universities in Hong Kong to conduct joint research on space technology, and they also have taken part in previous space activities.

Zhou Jianping, chief designer of China's manned space program, said the country will be able to rendezvous with other countries' spacecraft at the space station. China is also exploring the possibility of carrying out a joint rescue operation, according to Zhou.

China is now in an appropriate position to assist developing countries in building the capacity and capability of conducting space activities," said Mazlan Othman, director of the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs.

Many nations have realized that space is very important in the context of development, both globally and nationally, and China is a good example of how space can become a vital and crucial aspect of economic development."

Othman said China is doing well in sharing its experiences with other nations and declaring its intentions, leaving no doubt that its space endeavors are for peaceful purposes.

Othman said she is convinced that China will promote space exploration for all mankind with its resolve and huge investment.

I think China can lead in the international community's exploration of space. It has the political will to expand its manned space endeavors, and based on that will, China has ensured and set aside enough resources."

Cooperation to be expanded

Foreign delegates at a manned space conference said they look forward to expanding cooperation with China in the manned space initiatives.

China has developed and launched satellites for us, and we expect China could do more to help us develop our own space programs," Babatunda Rabin, from the Nigerian Space Agency, said on the sidelines of the United Nations/China Workshop on Human Space Technology.

Rabin said Nigeria is trying to use aerospace technologies to solve problems such as food security and prevalent diseases, which are areas where China can use its advanced technologies and rich experience to help his nation.

If China starts taking foreign astronauts to outer space, we would like to be the first candidate," said Ahmed Bilal, chairman of the Pakistan Space and Upper Atmosphere Research Commission. We also want to cooperate with China in remote sensing technology and educating the public about space."

Folk Horheck, an astrobiologist from Germany, said the event enables people like him whose work deals with space to learn more about China's astronautic and space research.

China has a long-range plan of building a space station, and this provides huge opportunities for the world to cooperate with China in space exploration," said Takao Doi, a space applications expert from the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs.

— Zhao Lei