ESA Sends Astronauts to China for Spaceflight Training

Samantha Cristoforetti is a European Space Agency (ESA) astronaut of Italian nationality. Between November 2014 and June 2015 she spent 199 days on board the International Space Station as a Flight Engineer for Expedition 42 and 43. During ASI’s Futura Mission, Samantha conducted experiments in the Station’s laboratories. Samantha is a Captain in the Italian Air Force.

Matthias Maurer is ESA’s newest recruit for the Agency’s astronaut corps. From Germany, Matthias was among the 10 finalists in the 2009 selection and is now undergoing basic training at the European Astronaut Centre in Cologne, Germany.

  • Jeff2Space

    Interesting development.

  • mlc449

    Great to see. While the US embraces isolationism and declines in stature as a world power Europe continues to forge closer relations with Beijing. Both Europe and China see the importance of multilateralism in today’s global world.

  • duheagle

    The US is not “embracing isolationism,” it is simply treating declared enemies as declared enemies.

    The US has been cooperating with many other nations in space for decades. ESA and its member states are among those with whom the US cooperates.

    ESA is, I strongly suspect, making nice with China in the hope the Chinese will throw some money their way. It certainly isn’t for “training.” Chinese manned space hardware is quite similar to Russian manned space hardware with which ESA astronauts are already quite familiar.

    Ms. Cristoforetti, by herself, has logged more time in orbit than the entirety of the Chinese taikonaut corps. The idea that the Chinese are going to teach her anything of consequence about spaceflight is simply ludicrous.

  • Paul451

    declared enemies

    You know that China has “most favoured” status in the US?

    (Meanwhile the US Right defends Trump’n’co against claims of “treason” by insisting that Russia (a nation subject to US sanctions because of its electronic attacks on the US) is not an enemy, therefore collusion with Russia can’t meet the Constitutional definition of giving aid/comfort to an “enemy”. You guys need to make up your minds.)

  • Andrew Tubbiolo

    The Chinese have reached the InterCosmos stage. Looking at their flight rate it’s obvious the program is starved of cash. They have money for infrastructure, but can’t afford to, or are afraid to fly. So bring in the foreign money and ‘know how’ to help close those gaps. ESA is a good partner, they’ll never be independent, and have none of the American teeth gnashing about duel use technology transfer that the Americas go through. I’ll add that I’m all for American teeth gnashing on that subject. But note that one of the ‘trainees’ is Cristoforetti. She has a wealth of training and operational flight time on the ISS, this at at a time when the Chinese are getting ready to begin construction of their version of Mir.

  • duheagle

    China has Most Favored Nation trade status with the US. How long that is likely to last given Mr. Trump’s steadily decreasing regard for China is problematic.

    I’m aware of no one on the right who thinks Mr. Trump colluded with Russia about anything. That is strictly the invention of you progs who keep insisting it’s true despite zero evidence. The dimwitted prog rank and file probably do believe this load of road apples, but the ringleaders certainly know better. Personally, I’d like to see Adam Schiff, Chuck Shumer and Nancy Pelosi publicly polygraphed on that subject – hell, the whole Democratic Caucus if it comes to that.

  • Andrew Tubbiolo

    I’ll bet there’s a pretty big departure between Soyuz and Shenzhou. I believe the Chinese system is larger, and from the looks of the flight controls are predicated on different concepts. Compare the modern Soyuz vs Shenzhou flight panel in this article …

    You may disagree, but it seems to me the Chinese system is much more automated than the Russian system. There seems to be almost a total lack of switches, knobs, valves, periscope ports, even control columns on the Chinese craft that are prominent in Soyuz.

    If I were the ESA I’d be weary of sending my cosmonauts/astronauts ( think astronauts should be a term saved for interstellar travelers… but …) in a vehicle with such a short flight history. Esp if I’m not the owner and operator of the system. If you’re going to rent a ride, make sure it’s a good system. Let the owner shake out the problems.

  • duheagle

    I mostly agree – see my earlier comment below – but we seem to differ a bit on who is panhandling whom in this scenario. Perhaps we are both right. The Euros might be under the impression they can lay hands on some Chinese cash and the Chinese may be under the same impression anent the Euros.

  • passinglurker

    It’s either collusion or obstruction of justice because we do have evidence from multiple agencies saying they’ve recorded events of Russian hacking, tampering, and tracing false news stories that manipulate public opinion all the while trump is trying to down play it and distract from it because he’s to petty to stand the notion that his victory might not be legitimate.

    Either way his softness on Russia over clear evidence of election tampering here and in Europe is nothing if not disturbingly suspicious even if he was to stupid to bumble in somehow and play along without colluding.

  • duheagle

    The Shenzhou is certainly not a straight-up copy of Soyuz. Given that the former is a 40 years more recent design than the latter, one would hardly expect otherwise. The biggest substantive differences are almost certainly avionic, including Shenzhou’s glass cockpit.

    Shenzhou is also modestly larger and heavier than Soyuz. But the same is true of the present-day Soyuz vs. its late-60’s ancestors as well.

    Could someone trained on Soyuz immediately operate Shenzhou? No, no more than a retired Pan Am captain from 1969 could immediately operate a 747-8. Could our notional Soyuz and 747-100 drivers get quickly up to speed with a modest amount of instruction and simulator time? Absolutely. In the world of piloting this is known as acquiring a supplemental type certification.

    The matter of the Shenzhou’s safety, anent that of Soyuz, is probably moot. Even the Chinese taikonauts don’t fly a lot. Cristoforetti and her colleague – even should their current excursion include getting “type certified” on Shenzhou – will probably both be retired by the time China yields even a single seat on Shenzhou to an ESA pilot.

    Personally, I’m inclined to think that would only happen if it becomes apparent that Americans – especially private-sector Americans – are going back to the Moon to do some non-trivial advancement of the state of the spacefaring art by the early 2020’s.

  • duheagle

    We have no such “evidence.” What we have is a conveniently classified document alleging the existence of such evidence written by Obama-loyalist holdovers in the intelligence establishment who are trying to do their part in the slow-rolling Democratic coup attempt that’s been underway since the morning after the election.

    The Russians always try to interfere with other nations’ elections. Interference in the affairs of other nations has been a staple of Russian policy for the last 1,000 years. Contra the liars in the upper echelon of the intelligence establishment, there is no evidence that Russia was successful in doing any of the things you allege.

    Given recent revelations about the three Pakistanis who ran IT operations for the DNC and most of the Democratic leadership caste for years, even the story that the Russians passed DNC files to Wikileaks looks equally fictional.

  • Andrew Tubbiolo

    I think we’re both right, only I’d add one more trade, experience, and future favors. I also think the Euros might be dropping a bit of a hint that if the Americans are going to generate a Trump style leader every once and a while, they might have to broaden their circle of potential friends, and the Chinese to their credit, are once again capitalizing on American malfunction.

  • passinglurker

    Sorry but the only large scale conspiracy theories I prescribe to are ones where the ambition balloons out of control and people get caught out of thier greed overconfidence and stupidity.

    Ideological coups are not practical and you’d be a fool to think the bumbling DNC can actually pull something like that off as much as I’d be a fool to think the GOP can come together and attempt the same without getting caught.

  • Arthur Hamilton

    Their larger style soyuz class capsule should be more comfortable than Russia’s. The Europeans should embrace other cpuntries manned spaceflight capabilities.

  • duheagle

    I realize this runs contrary to pretty much everything you seem to believe politically, but not everything is actually about Donald J. Trump.

    More substantively, if this is exclusively a case of mistaken mutual panhandling, it won’t last long nor come to much. As noted, even if no money ultimately changes hands, this new chumminess of ESA and China may be driven by ESA’s notional, but unaffordable on its own dime, Moon Village idea combined with a possible Chinese wish, as yet unexpressed publicly, to speed up their own 2036 timetable item for Chinese bootprints on Luna. It would be fairly embarrassing to both parties to arrive on the Moon only to have to toss the keys to their spaceships to the American valet on duty at the Lunar Hilton.

    Where the Moon is concerned, it was the Obama administration that represented “American malfunction.” Given eight years of malign neglect of matters lunar by the U.S., both ESA and China can be forgiven for supposing their leisurely notional schedules for Moon projects were plenty fast enough. Trump has yet to say much of anything about space, but at least it’s no longer a hanging offense to say the word “Moon” at NASA since Jan. 20. Given that Elon Musk has now also uttered that word in public, slow and steady probably isn’t going to cut it anymore.

  • duheagle

    As the Europeans have no manned spaceflight capabilities of their own, that is what they’ve always done – first with Shuttle, now with Soyuz, soon with Dragon 2 and Starliner. Adding Shenzhou to their list of Other People’s Rides – should that ever actually happen – won’t represent anything new at all.

  • duheagle

    Given that most of the machinations involved have been right out in public, it’s a bit difficult to properly credit the attempt to illegitimately remove Donald Trump from office as a “conspiracy.”

    I, too, think the DNC coup attempt will come to naught, but not because it isn’t being actively – and quite publicly – pursued.

    That you don’t “prescribe” to this notion is utterly unsurprising given your leaded glass ideological blinkers.

  • Andrew Tubbiolo

    Some interesting thoughts there and I’ll more than consider them, but it assumes the ESA takes the idea of the Lunar Village seriously and really was interested in pursing it. I think this is about space stations, and options for future partnerships, not the Moon.

    As for the Moon, if Elon wants to go, he’ll pull the US along with him. Kicking and screaming all the way. The Russian response will be anemic, the Chinese response will be infrastructure rich on the ground but flight poor. At least in my prognostication.

    Of course the future will show who is right if either of us are.

  • duheagle

    The head guy at ESA certainly takes the Moon Village idea seriously. But then he would, given that it was his idea in the first place. How much support he can gin up from the other Europeans is very much an open question, though.

    In addition to the possible “Who’s panhandling whom?” conundrum, there might also be a “What’s it all about, Alfie?” conundrum. Is it all about space stations to the Chinese and Moon Village to ESA? The reverse? Who knows?

    I entirely endorse your notion of the Chinese program, whatever its goals, continuing to be “flight poor.” That’s what also makes me think it’ll be a very long time before China yields even a single seat to a round-eyed “guestronaut.”