September 29, 2008

Russia Must Cooperate With China in Space – Expert

Text of report by corporate-owned Russian military news agency Interfax-AVN website

Moscow, 25 September, Interfax-AVN: Russia must think about stepping up its cooperation in space with China, according to Andrey Ionin, a corresponding member of the Tsiolkovskiy Russian Academy of Space Exploration.

"Today we must think about who our key partners in space are. Now may well be the time to shift our gaze from the West to the East. The economic, technological and political centres are moving to the Asia-Pacific region, where China, Japan and South Korea are developing rapidly," the Russian expert said while commenting for Interfax-AVN on the launch of the third Chinese manned space vehicle.

Accordingly, Ionin thinks that the decision to build a space launch complex in the [Russian] Far East as a strategic long-term imperative is a correct step.

He favoured the boosting of cooperation with China in the space field. "Unlike the USA, our country does not suffer from the sickness of aspiring to unbounded world leadership and is ready to cooperate in manned and unmanned space exploration," Ionin pointed out.

According to him, China's launch of its third manned space vehicle, from which the taikonauts will perform a spacewalk during the flight, is "a big step for the Celestial Empire [i.e. China] but a small achievement for world space exploration". "In the modern world, a spacewalk, which the USSR and the USA carried out more than 40 years ago, is nothing out of the ordinary," the expert commented.

Ionin added that the Chinese space programme, while repeating Soviet experience, was moving ahead far more slowly than space travel developed in the USSR and the USA during the 1960s and 1970s.

"Yuriy Gagarin made his flight in 1961, and, just three years later, Aleksey Leonov scored a world first with his spacewalk. It has taken China five years to do that, even though it is now at a completely different technological level," the Russian expert said.

He is apprehensive about only one thing - "China's slow advance up the space staircase, which, like a snow avalanche, cannot be stopped". Through its achievements in space exploration, China is trying to regain its role as a major power influencing the world's destiny - the country that it was for several millennia in succession.

This is understood in the USA too, the expert points out. That is why the Americans will do everything possible to return to the moon before the first taikonaut lands there. Ionin says that the earth's natural satellite will be the venue for a contest between China and the USA, just as it was during the Soviet-American "space race".

Before sending an astronaut to the moon, Ionin thinks, China will build its own space station in orbit or will join the International Space Station project. The USA, whose space programme has been in the doldrums recently, is unable to block China's participation in the project, the expert considers.

Originally published by Interfax-AVN military news agency website, Moscow, in Russian 1355 25 Sep 08.

(c) 2008 BBC Monitoring Former Soviet Union. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All rights Reserved.