Chinese aerospace experts slam NASA's chief for 'ridiculous and outrageous' allegations of 'stealing' technology
Published: May 19, 2022 11:09 PM
National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Administrator Bill Nelson testifies during a Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on NASA's fiscal year 2022 budget request at the Dirksen Senate Office Building on June 15, 2021 in Washington, DC. Photo: VCG
National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Administrator Bill Nelson testifies during a Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on NASA's fiscal year 2022 budget request at the Dirksen Senate Office Building on June 15, 2021 in Washington, DC. Photo: VCG

Chinese aerospace experts on Thursday slammed NASA's Administrator Bill Nelson for his "ridiculous" and "outrageous" remarks after the senior official alleged that China is "good at stealing" American designs in a "space race."

China has achieved space achievements beyond the US despite the strong blockade of the country because China is taking the road of independent space development, experts stressed.

During Nelson's testimony at the House Appropriations Committee hearing on Tuesday, he expressed his views when Alabama representative, Robert Aderholt, asked about the steps taken by NASA "to secure American research and development." Aderholt was reportedly referring to the "jarring similarities" that were noticed between the US and Chinese spacecrafts, US media reported on Wednesday.

The NASA chief responded that "they [the Chinese] are pretty good at stealing," and emphasized that the US needs to take cybersecurity "very seriously" both in the private and the public sectors.

In April, Nelson accused China of continuing to display a lack of transparency and willingness to cooperate with the US and other countries in space. He said in a press conference at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida that "we want cooperation that has not been forthcoming from the Chinese government [but] it takes two to tango."

According to US media, Bill Nelson and other politicians discussed during a hearing on Monday President Joe Biden's request for $26 billion in fiscal year 2023, an unprecedented amount. Nelson told lawmakers that China plans to send three large landers to the moon's south pole in upcoming years, while NASA currently has only a small lander headed to the same region in the next two years.

"They now have a space station and it's got impressive technology,'' Nelson said. "They have declared that they are going to the moon. …Not unlike the space race we were in with the Soviet Union, I think we are going to have that space race with the Chinese government in the future.''

Deng Yulin, an academician of the International Academy of Astronautics, told the Global Times on Thursday that China's space development program is aimed at the peaceful use of space and promote a community with a shared future for mankind, which is completely different from the US-Soviet Union space race that was mainly for military purposes.

"Nelson plays up the notion of a space race between China and the US for the purpose of taking money from the government. It also shows that the US is feeling great pressure from the rapid pace of China's space development," Deng said.

Huang Zhicheng, a senior expert on aerospace science and technology, said the allegation of NASA's chief is not only unreasonable, but also certain to be laughed at by history.

The space technologies of all countries in the world are subject to the same basic scientific principles and development laws. In recent years, China has made remarkable achievements in the BeiDou Global Navigation Satellite System, high-resolution Earth observation and remote sensing satellite system, Moon and Mars exploration, and manned spaceflight but China's space development path is completely different from that of the US.

"For example, the Chang'e-4 landed on the far side of the moon to carry out exploration tasks and China's first mission to Mars are the paths that Americans have never achieved," Huang said.

The expert said the US has always maintained a strong blockade on China's space industry. From the Cox Report to the Wolf Amendment, there have been no normal space exchanges between China and the US. Under such circumstances, it is well known that China has independently developed space technology and trailblazing its own development path, which has been recognized and praised by space scholars around the world.

"I hope NASA can change its past practices, put down its arrogance and offer some constructive suggestions for China-US space cooperation," Huang said.

Deng also believes that Bill Nelson's false accusation exposed this NASA chief is showing "double standards."

Deng pointed out that the development of science and technology and social progress is based on the achievements of predecessors and step by step advancement, which is why research results need to be published in paper and intellectual property rights need to be open. All these will promote the development of social progress.

"According to Nielsen's logic, American scientists are also quoting a large number of papers by Chinese scientists and using Chinese invention patents for reference. Does this mean that Americans are stealing Chinese research achievements? Scientists all over the world are quoting from each other. Does that mean everyone is stealing from each other?" Deng asked.

As a matter of fact, rockets, spacecrafts, satellites and other spaceships developed by China are the product of large number of independent intellectual property rights with their relevant patents. In some respects, China even leads the world. Intellectual property has clear claims and Bill Nelson's generalization of intellectual property protection claims is ridiculous and outrageous, Deng said.