November 17, 2009

NASA, China To Cooperate On Space Exploration?

The head of NASA said on Tuesday that the U.S. is ready to cooperate with China in space exploration, as Beijing aims to send a manned mission to the moon by around 2020, AFP reported.

NASA chief Charles Bolden said he was perfectly willing to engage the Chinese in trying to make them a partner in any space endeavor.

"I think they're a very capable nation," he added.

Bolden told reporters on a visit to Tokyo that China has demonstrated their capability to do something that only two other nations have done: put humans in space.

"I think that is an achievement you cannot ignore. They are a nation that is trying to really lead. If we could cooperate we would probably be better off than if we would not," the former astronaut said.

In an effort to catch up to Western space programs, China has been pouring billions of dollars into its space activities.

China has carried out three manned space missions, including a spacewalk, and put a lunar orbiter in space.

NASA also has ambitious plans to put U.S. astronauts back on the moon by 2020 to establish manned lunar bases for further exploration to Mars.

However, President Barack Obama's review panel said last month that existing budgets were not large enough to fund a return mission before 2020.

The existing U.S. space shuttle fleet is due to be retired in 2010.


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