Nine international scientific projects to board China Space Station

By Guo Yuandan and Deng Xiaoci Source:Global Times Published: 2019/6/13 0:23:40

Nine intl scientific projects to board space station

Photo taken on November 5, 2018 shows a full-size model of the core module of China Space Station Tianhe exhibited at the 12th China International Aviation and Aerospace Exhibition (Airshow China) in Zhuhai, South China's Guangdong Province. The China Manned Space Engineering Office (CMSEO) announced Monday that the core module of the country's space station, the Long March-5B carrier rocket and its payloads will be sent to the launch site in the second half of this year, to make preparations for the space station missions. China is scheduled to complete the construction of the space station around 2022. It will be the country's space lab in long-term stable in-orbit operation. Photo: Xinhua

The China Manned Space Agency (CMSA) and the United Nations Committee on Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS) announced on Wednesday that nine international scientific experiments of 17 countries and 23 research bodies would be included in China Space Station (CSS), which is expected to be operational by 2022. 

The announcement was made at the COPOUS headquarters in Vienna, Austria on Wednesday. The first nine international experiments from around the world have been accepted aboard the CSS, the Xinhua News Agency reported Wednesday. 

The first batch of selected space science experiments to fly the CSS include Gamma-ray burst polarimetry on the CSS jointly proposed by Switzerland, Poland, Germany and China and a spectroscopic investigation of nebular gas by India and Russia.

CMSA director-general Hao Chun said that besides implementing approved experiments, the CMSA will continue to work closely with COPUOS to further improve and prepare for the next cooperation announcement.

Wang Qun, a permanent representative and ambassador of China to the UN and other International Organizations in Vienna, said during a speech at the Wednesday announcement that China Space Station cooperation is open and inclusive, not self-interest driven and does not intend, in any way, to form an exclusive circle.

"The cooperation takes into account the special needs of developing countries and encourages developing countries to submit joint project applications with developed countries. The application from governments and nonprofit organizations can enjoy certain financial support. We aim at helping developing countries to bridge the technological gap and realize the space access and exploration," Wang said.

The CMSA said in a recent press release that China's manned space program has advanced from independent development to a new era of global cooperation, and space authorities vowed to actively carry out international exchanges and cooperation in various aspects, including equipment development and astronaut training in a more open manner, with countries all over the world, especially developing countries, to share the achievements China has made in manned space development. 

"It shows that China's space programs' highly inclusive and cooperative nature has become a new tradition, following the latest Chang'e-4 landing on the far side of the moon with European experiments and monitoring payloads on the probe," said Fu Song, a professor at the School of Aerospace Engineering of Tsinghua University.  

Fu said that "the completion and operation of the CSS will be good news for mankind, especially as the International Space Station [ISS] is widely thought to be close to retirement."

"The involvement of international experiment programs on board the CSS shows that China has the ability to provide a long-term space lab for the post-ISS age, which benefits mankind," Fu said. 

"This is space diplomacy in action," United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA) Director Simonetta Di Pippo was quoted as saying by the New York-based space exploration site in May. 

"I appreciate China's partnership and support this exciting initiative, and look forward to seeing a number of interesting applications from United Nations member states."

The CMSA and UNOOSA launched the "United Nations/China Cooperation on the Utilization of the China Space Station" on May 28, 2018, inviting scientists from UN member states to take part in future CSS on-board experiment cooperation.

The selection work was carried out by the CMSA in cooperation with UNOOSA.

During the primary stage of the selection work, 42 applications were received from scientists of 27 countries and regions in Asia, Europe and North and South America. Seventy-two international cooperation teams and 258 research fellows submitted applications.

CSS on-board cooperation programs cover nine disciplines, including aerospace medicine, aerospace technology, space life science and biotechnology, and space astronomy, representing different scientific research fields and technological levels.

When asked if astronauts from other countries would be able to enter the CSS and con-duct on-board experiments, Lin told the Global times at a recent press conference in Beijing that "it will depend on the CSS' situation and particular needs, and will be decided on a later date." 

China's new space station, codenamed Tiangong, is designed to be in service for 10 years, which could be extended through repair and renovations according to specific needs. Its designed capacity is for three astronauts, and it can accommodate up to six astronauts for short periods during personnel rotation.

Testing of the core module of the new space station has been completed.

China is scheduled to complete construction of the space station around 2022, and the CSS is expected to be operational by then, Lin said, noting that "the CSS belongs not only to China, but also to the world. And once completed, the CSS will make more "Chinese contributions" to the socioeconomic development of mankind. 

To make sure international experiment devices are reliable and secure on board, China will provide research and design to ensure they are adapted to the space environment, which will cost a lot but will also showcase China's cooperative spirit in the space field, Lü Congmin, deputy chief designer of the space station's application system, told the Global Times at the same event. 

US absence regretful

The Global Times found no US-led experiments on the list.

China and the US have a broad prospective in the manned space domain, as long as the US lifts its unconstructive laws which ban aerospace cooperation with the Chinese side, and such laws, regretfully, have seriously hindered the normal development of China-US space cooperation and exchanges, Lin said. 

A US law known as the Wolf Amendment bans cooperation between NASA and Chinese government entities.

China is willing to work with any country, including the US, in the space domain, as long as such cooperation is in line with the principle of the peaceful use of outer space, Lin said. 

Fu said he predicts that the US side will gradually relax its outdated and short-sighted laws, and the future of China-US space cooperation will be very promising. 

Newspaper headline: Nation’s CSS open to world

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