China Opens Up Space Program to Foreign Astronauts

The crew of Shenzhou-10 after 15 days in space. (Credit: CNSA)
The crew of Shenzhou-10 after 15 days in space. (Credit: CNSA)

China is opening up its human spaceflight program to foreign astronauts:


We would like to train astronauts from other countries and organizations that have such a demand, and we would be glad to provide trips to foreign astronauts,” said Yang Liwei, deputy director of China Manned Space Agency. We will also welcome foreign astronauts who have received our training to work in our future space station.”


Yang, China’s first astronaut, who went into space in 2003, said many countries submitted proposals to the Chinese government during the development of the space station, hoping China would help train their astronauts and then send them to the station to conduct scientific experiments….

China and Russia have collaborated on astronaut training, spacecraft technology and extra-vehicular suits, and we are cooperating with our French counterparts on a variety of experiments in astrobiology and space medicine,” he said, adding that Chinese and German scientists also performed astrobiological experiments during the unmanned Shenzhou VIII mission in 2011.


Astronauts from the European Space Agency and their Chinese peers have visited each other’s training facilities, laying a solid foundation for further communication….



Zhou Jianping, chief designer of China’s manned space program, said the country will be able to rendezvous with other countries’ spacecraft at the space station. China is also exploring the possibility of carrying out a joint rescue operation, according to Zhou.


China’s plans including launching a second Tiangong space station into orbit with several crews to follow and then building a multi-module station by 2020.

The announcement came as China marked the 10th anniversary of  its first spaceflight in 2003. Yang made 14 orbits around the Earth in Shenzhou 5 before landing safely. The nation has launched a total of five successful Shenzhou spacecraft with crews on board.

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  • Dennis Stolwijk

    Well, can’t blame them! It would be a win win situation for the Chinese. It could mean insight into the programs of agencies willing to partner up and additional income for their program!

    They have been putting a LOT of money and effort into their space program in the last two decades, but the well isn’t endless. If swapping out one or two of the Chinese crewmembers on their planned space station could mean reeling in a bunch of money, why not!

  • Michael Vaicaitis

    I don’t think this a money issue – I suspect that to all intents and purposes the well probably is endless. I doubt very much that they are budget constrained or forced by their evil political overlords to spend what budget they do have on useless political posturing and lobbyist profiteering.

    Surely the whole point of joint efforts is to learn from each other, what has blame, or lack of, got to do with it?. I don’t really get the point of maintaining the “them and us” mentality regarding China – what good does it do and to what end?.

  • Tonya

    If China is also considering this for it’s tentative lunar exploration plans, it could be a very interesting move.

    NASA’s roadmap for asteroid exploration has little enthusiasm with the worlds other space agencies. Both ESA and Russia are interested in lunar sortie missions via international cooperation.

    It’s not impossible to see a scenario in which the current ISS partners move on to work with China instead of NASA in the next decade. As the Chinese program is largely a matter of national prestige, this is a scenario they might rather enjoy.

  • therealdmt

    Interesting. And a bit scary.

    My thoughts were that their goals are more modest — mainly to end their international pariah status in space and make the US look silly for excluding them from the international space station and other programs going forward. I figured they’d get a few astronauts from Myanmar or wherever and declare their program “international”.

    But, as you say, even the ESA might be onboard for flying their astronauts on a Chinese mission. And the Russians could do an exchange program — surely Putin would love to tweak the US’s nose like that. And that would leave America the odd man out, going solo on its long, lonely, expensive journey to some little asteroid no one ever heard of before…

  • mfck

    Excellent move from the Chinese, I find their space program really impressive and well paced. This development might be a nice push for the CCICAP effort in general and for SpaceX in particular.