Wednesday, November 18, 2009

U. S., China To Talk Space

As President Obama ended his first official visit to China, the two countries released a joint statement that indicates they will pursue talks across a range of issues, including cooperation in space. That cooperation is to include human spaceflight. The NASA Administrator and the head of China's space effort are to exchange visits next year.

To cooperate with China in human spaceflight, of course, presumes America will have a human spaceflight capability after the space shuttle is retired. Mr. Obama, from his presidential campaign, has seemed to be a supporter of human spaceflight, but NASA remains in a holding pattern until he decides the future thrust in that area.

Statements out of China, on the other hand, have made it clear that the Chinese intend to remain in manned space. China seems to plan a small space station for the next decade, and a manned lunar landing sometime in the 2020s. China has also expressed some interest in participating in an international program to establish a lunar base. Indeed, several major nations have expressed interest in such a project. Perhaps the best approach to establishing mankind's first permanent outpost on another world, for a variety of reasons, would be to create a program backed by several nations.

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