NASA Chief Michael Griffin Invited to China

COLORADOSPRINGS, Colo. -- Chinese space officials have invited NASA AdministratorMichael Griffin to visit their country in the fall, possibly as early as September.

During aninformal visit to NASA headquarters in Washington, April 3, Luo Ge, viceadministrator of the China National Space Administration, met with Michael F.O'Brien, NASA associate administrator for external relations, to discuss apotential trip by Griffin to meet with Chinese space officials and visit theirfacilities, possibly as early as September.

"I made ajoke with Mr. O'Brien that if we need to get married some day, we have to meet;otherwise we cannot get married," Luo said in an interview here following hismorning keynote speech April 5 at the 22nd National Space Symposium.Luo described the visit with O'Brien as "only a drop in" with two purposes:" tosee an old friend" and to discuss Griffin visiting China.

"When Ireturn to Beijing I will draft an itinerary for his visit," Luo said. He addedthat a visit by Griffin would be an important first step toward future spacecooperation between the two countries.

NASAspokesman Dean Acosta confirmed that China had extended an invitation to Griffin for a visit this fall and that the trip is under consideration, reiterating thatthere are no firm dates yet.

Chinesespace officials met with former NASA Administrator Sean O'Keefe and otheragency officials in Washington in 2004 for informal discussions, but Luo saidno agreements resulted from those meetings.

In hiskeynote speech Luo said China is open to international cooperation in all typesof space activites, including human spaceflight. He also stressed in theinterview following his speech that China does have its own independent systemsnow for sending astronauts to space, but still welcomes cooperative efforts.

A U.S.congressional delegation--Rep. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), Rep. Rick Larsen (D-Wash.)and Rep. Tom Feeney (R-Fla.) visited China in January. Feeny said in aninterview that the most immediate area of cooperation ought to be a jointdocking device that would permit Chinese spacecraft to dock with the futureU.S. Crew Exploration Vehicle, the planned replacement for the shuttle, eitherfor cooperative visits or rescue missions. Feeney also said future U.S. spacecraft should be able to dock at the space station China is planning.

Mentioningthe congressional visit Luo said he too would favor a joint docking system.

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