China regrets that the United States has rebuffed space cooperation with
China, the head of China's space agency told his American counterpart in
In a meeting Monday with National
Aeronautics and Space Administration chief Michael Griffin, Luo Ge reminisced
how "very open" he found the United States when he first visited this country in
1980, and later in the 1990s.
A man looks at a
China-made Shenzou spaceship model on display in 2005. China regrets that
the United States has rebuffed space cooperation with China, the head of
China's space agency told his American counterpart in Washington.
"Now, it's the other way around," he said through an interpreter at the
privately-run Center for Strategic International Studies, after meeting with
The Pentagon has publicly said it considers China's space program a potential
threat to the satellite systems so crucial to US military supremacy, a concern
shared by many US lawmakers.
"I think a country, if it's open, is going to have progress, and if it's
closed, then it's going to be left behind," Luo said.
From 1950 through the 1970s, he said, China was a closed society with a slow
rate of development. In the 1980s it began making significant progress, showing
it was interested in opening up. Today, he added, "China is very open."
Asked if China was interested in cooperating with the United States and other
countries in the development of the International Space Station, Luo said: "We
have always been interested, but we don't have (an admissions) ticket yet."
He also stressed that China was cooperating in space programs with Europe,
Russia, Brazil, Nigeria and Venezuela.
Space, he said, "is a high-risk investment" and China "as a developing
country is limited and constrained by its funding for more ambitious programs."
Luo said that China spent about US$500 million (more than 400 million euros)
per year on its space program, a mere pittance compared to the 16.8 billion
(13.8 billion euros) NASA has requested from the US Congress for fiscal 2007,
beginning in October.
Luo also said China was planning several unmanned lunar missions, beginning
with an orbital mission next year, a landing in 2012, and bringing samples of
lunar material back to Earth by 2017.
With two manned missions orbiting Earth so far, China is third behind the
United States and Russia in sending men into space.
Luo said China was planning to have a low-cost, non-polluting, 25-ton
capacity launch vehicle ready by 2011.
The Chinese space agency was also planning to place seven observation
satellites in orbit to monitor the environment, the first of which will study
the Earth's magnetic field as an indicator of seismic activity.
Luo and his delegation have visited NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, in a
Maryland suburb outside Washington, and will take part in the Space Symposium in
Colorado Springs later this week.
Their tour comes only two weeks ahead of Chinese President Hu Jintao's April
20 visit to Washington.