ESA, China Meet to Explore Joint Human Space Missions

A taikonaut emerges from China’s Shenzhou 7 spacecraft after a successful orbital flight

PARIS, 8 October 2012 (ESA PR) — Wang Zhaoyao, Director General of the China Manned Space Agency, accompanied by the first Chinese female astronaut, Liu Yang, met ESA Director General Jean-Jacques Dordain at the Agency’s headquarters in Paris on 8 October.

Mr Dordain congratulated Mr Wang on the successful Shenzhou-9 mission, stating how impressed he had been when learning of the flawless automatic and manual docking with Tiangong-1.

Following earlier discussions, the two sides have agreed to continue talking about possible avenues for cooperation between ESA and the China Manned Space Agency (CMSA).

A delegation from CMSA and the Chinese Astronaut Centre will visit the European Astronaut Centre in Cologne in the near future with a view to sharing experiences in astronaut training.

Another potential area of cooperation could be joint scientific experiments carried out on the Tiangong space laboratory.

Editor’s Note: The meeting follows comments last month by Thomas Reiter, who heads up ESA’s human spaceflight division, that ESA is exploring joint human missions with China as part of a wider program of cooperation between the two space agencies.

“I would welcome a European astronaut flying aboard a Chinese spaceship,” Thomas Reiter told The Associated Press in an interview on the sidelines of the ILA Berlin Air Show.

The German former astronaut said ESA is planning to slowly deepen cooperation with its Chinese counterpart and could aim for joint missions in “the second half of this decade.”

“In fact, some of our astronauts have started Chinese language training,” he said….

Reiter said the 19-nation agency plans to hold a series of meetings with its Chinese counterpart, the China National Space Administration, that will explore closer cooperation in the areas of astronaut training, spacecraft docking and developing life support systems.

Eventually, ESA would also like China to become a member of the ISS program if U.S. objections can be overcome.

  • I’m looking forward to collaboration between China and Europe. In the last two flights, the Chinese spacecraft took up flags from around the world and then brought them down. This sign of international collaboration can perhaps be pushed into reality now.