Already there are hints of Sino-American diplomatic space efforts within Washington political circles with discussion of the inclusion of China in the International Space Station partnership and perhaps seeking the opportunity to loft an American astronaut aboard a Chinese-made space capsule in the years ahead. Efforts to cooperate in space with the Chinese should be given serious attention by President Barack Obama some now say.
After seeing a full-scale mock-up of the Shenzhou/Long March 2F booster in Beijing this month, this blogger is impressed by the technology the Chinese are seeking to employ and develop for routine space access. Inquiry as to space facility tours in China by Americans now appears to be problematic however. Chinese officals will allow visits to the Xichang space launch facilities but as of yet will not agree to foreign nationals to visit the Jiuquan Space Launch Center where the Chinese boost their astronauts to space.
To build space cooperation between the United States and the Chinese, perhaps Washington insiders should seek to enable:
- The launch of a Chinese astronaut to the International Space Station prior to the end of the space shuttle program next year; and, in return, the launch of an American astronaut on Shenzhou/Long March 2F in 2011 or 2012 to jump start greater space flight coperation for the coming decade.
- The Chinese should enable more transparency at the Jiuquan Space Launch Center and enable foreign nationals to tour the human space launch facilities and bear witness to the Shenzhou/Long March 2F human-rated space launches while in turn allowing the Chinese space tourists to witness civil space flight launches at the Kennedy Space Center in a People-to-People-like space launch exchange.
- The international space station partners should commence enabling the Chinese a birthing port at the orbiting lab and invite Chinese investment in the facility in the years ahead. The more capability to re-supply and provide two-way transport by humans to the $100-billion facility increases the return on investment in tangable and intangable ways to all of the international partners by adding the Chinese to the space access portfilio.