NASA Chief Agrees to Working Groups with China, But Full Cooperation Far Off
by Brian Berger, Space News Staff Writer | September 26, 2006 03:11pm ET
WASHINGTON -- NASA
Administrator Mike Griffin ruled out Chinese participation in the assembly of
the International Space Station, adding that any U.S.-Chinese collaboration on
human space flight projects would have to happen "well down the road." But
Griffin also raised the possibility of nearer-term cooperation with China on
Earth science and other unmanned space endeavors.
Speaking to reporters Sept. 25 in Beijing on the second day
of a planned five-day visit to meet with Chinese space officials and get a
first hand look at the Asian nation's growing space program, Griffin described
the historic trip as a "get-acquainted visit."
Griffin is the first NASA administrator to make an official
visit to China. He was invited to visit by Chinese President Hu Jintao during
an April summit with U.S. President George W. Bush, who accepted on Griffin's
Griffin said during the press conference that NASA remains
unable to cooperate with China's military-based space program due to U.S.
proliferation concerns, but would continue to talk with the civilian side of
China's space program to explore opportunities for cooperation.
He said the trip had already yielded an agreement with his
Chinese counterpart, China National Space Administration Director Sun Laiyan,
for NASA and CNSA to talk at least once a year and to explore establishing
working groups in a number of areas, including Earth science, climate research,
robotic missions and sharing data from various science missions. "We believe
that might be a productive thing to do, and we are going to explore it,"
Griffin, however, made clear that extending an invitation to
China to join the international space station program was not in the cards.
"There are no plans on our part to work with China on the
ISS construction," Griffin said in response to a question from a reporter. "The
ISS program is the International Space Station program. In its present form, it
is now approaching 13 years old. The partnerships that led to the development of
the ISS are well established. I do not propose to change any of those
arrangements at the present time."
Griffin did not rule out eventual cooperation with China "in
the arena of manned space flight" but said that any such joint endeavors would
happen after the United States and its partners complete development of the