Country's long-term space roadmap includes Mars probe and moon base
BEIJING - The European Space Agency (ESA) supports China's inclusion in the International Space Station (ISS) partnership, the agency's director -general Jean-Jacques Dordain said on Monday.
He made the remarks on Monday during the ongoing Global Lunar Conference in Beijing, which is organized by the International Astronautical Federation and the Chinese Society of Astronautics.
Dordain said international cooperation on space exploration has been progressing slowly. To achieve more, the partnership needs to be expanded, he said.
"I am really willing to support the extension of the partnership of the ISS to China and South Korea. Obviously, this should be a decision by all partners, not the decision by one partner," he said.
The ISS is jointly built and run by the United States, Russia, ESA's 11 member countries, Canada, Japan and Brazil. China is excluded from the ISS.
But with growing power based on its independent technological development, China is being invited to more international cooperatives in space exploration in recent years.
Dordain noted that he was glad to see that on June 3, the first Russian, Chinese and ESA group will participate in the Mars-500 mission.
"This is the first time that we shall have quasi-astronauts from Russia, China and ESA living together for 520 days. This is a good step," he said.
The Mars-500 project is a three-stage experiment including a 250-day virtual flight to Mars, a 30-day stay on the planet and a 240-day journey back to earth.
Wang Yue, a space trainer from China, will join five other volunteers from Russia, Italy and France in the project. Three experiments proposed by China will also be conducted during the mission.
Chen Qiufa, vice-minister of industry and information technology in charge of the lunar exploration mission, said at the conference that China is willing to join international cooperatives, and share technologies and research results with other countries, while independently developing its own technologies.
In past years, China and ESA have cooperated in a number of projects.
In the SMART-1 mission that ended in September 2006 with a spacecraft sent to the moon, the ESA has provided China with details of the spacecraft's position and transmission frequencies.
China, in turn, agreed to carry a bio sample for the ESA on the Shenzhou-VIII spacecraft, which will be launched next year, Xinhua reported last year.
In addition to lunar exploration, China and the ESA have also cooperated in a few projects in Earth observation missions, including the Double Star Program and Dragon Program.
"I think China's partnership with the EU is the most smooth in international cooperation and competitions," Peng Jing, a senior engineer of China Academy of Space Technology, told China Daily on Monday.
Ye Peijian, chief designer of the nation's first lunar probe, Chang'e-1, said earlier that China's growing power in space technology is the reason that China is involved in and invited to more international cooperation projects.
So far, China has sent six astronauts into space, and launched Chang'e-1 to circle the moon.
In the coming few years, China plans to test docking technologies, which is necessary for building the space station, and send probes for moon landings. China aims to build a space station on its own by 2020.
Though the government has not yet announced plans to send astronauts to the moon, scientific research on it has started, Yu Dengyun, deputy chief designer of China's lunar exploration project, said at the conference.
On behalf of the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp, the core enterprise of China's space technology development, he also revealed a suggested roadmap for China's deep space exploration, which includes developing China's own Mars probe, and building a base on the moon.
Yan Jie contributed to this story.