Perminov: Chinese Shenzhou Vehicle Eyed as ISS Backup to Russian Soyuz – UPDATED

A rather interesting news item has been posted on the Roscosmos web site via Interfax. It quotes Roscosmos Head Anatoly Perminov as saying the International Space Station partners are awaiting a response from China on an invitation to join the project.

The interesting element is why the offer was made: the Russia doesn’t want to be solely responsible for crew transport once the space shuttle retires.

“This is rather dangerous, any expert recognizes that. There must a backup for the Soyuz.We wish some country would have it, and we contacted China with its human spaceflight program mature enough to maintain crew transportation in the program, asking to join the ISS partnership. However there was no response,” Perminov said.

Oh, I can’t imagine this going over very well with Congress. Not. At. All.

Update: NASA issued a formal statement about this story on Friday:

“We checked and confirmed with the director of the Russian Federal Space Agency human space flight program that Russia has not issued an invitation to China to join the International Space Station Program.”

The statement seems limited to whether Russia has issued an invitation to China. However, ESA Director General Jean-Jacques Dordain is publicly advocating bringing China, South Korea and India into the 15-nation program. It’s unlikely that either Dordain or Perminov would be publicly commenting on such a move unless there had been some discussion among the partners.

The Obama Administration is keen on increasing international cooperation in space; a general agreement was announced during the President’s visit to Beijing last year. Presidential Science Adviser John Holdren has spoken openly about the possibility of U.S. astronauts flying to ISS aboard the Chinese Shenzhou spacecraft.

Publicly, the Administration seems more cool to the idea of adding member nations to the complex station partnership on a formal basis. However, it does seem to be open to ISS cooperation on a bilateral basis. For example, the South Koreans are in detailed discussion with NASA and ESA about joint research projects, including on ISS research.

  • A. Scott

    Kay Bailey Hutchison is going to have a field day with this. I thought her claim that Soyuz “wasn’t sufficiently safe” to soley rely upon it for ISS crew transport was a bit of a stretch. Now the Russians are playing right into her hand. Of course, it is sensible for the Russians to want a back up because all it would take is one Soyuz accident and NASA would suspend US crew transport on Soyuz (effectively suspending US crew participation on Station).

  • Interesting post.

    Why should the Texas Senator object? The new space policy is geared to international cooperation and not a state of Cold War. Can not the Chinese explore space as a part of humanity or do we seek to freeze them out of space while the US is grounded. The US space launch problems are not because of Obama. The United States simply failed to properly authorize and fund space transport in Congress and the previous White House?

    The realization here is the the United States does need to invest in space technology innvation and not stay locked in a time where we do not send humans into deep space. The time has come to turn the page and innovate if the United States is to retain international leadership.

    We can not afford to push away the competition and simply sit on the sidelines. The new space policy to be announced Monday will be a step in the right direction.

  • A. Scott

    Jack Kennedy,

    I’m not sure if anybody is trying freeze out the Chinese. My only point was that the Senator from Texas would find even more to criticize about NASA’s plan to solely rely upon Soyuz for US crew transport to Station if the Russians are indicating that they believe it is too risky to have Soyuz as the sole source. This will not exactly instill confidence in the Russians to be our sole source for Station access.

  • Nickolai_the_Russian_Guy

    New space policy to be announced monday?