Fifteen nations collaborated to build the space station, a
permanently staffed research complex that flies about 250 miles
above Earth. On Wednesday, the Obama Administration announced its
intent to extend station operations to at least 2024, four years
beyond when it was slated to be removed from orbit.
"We're very happy to hear about extension," Xu Dazhe, administrator
of the China National Space Administration, said Friday at the
International Academy of Astronautics conference, one of three
global space summits hosted in Washington this week.
"It means that by the time our space station is being built, we
would have a companion up there," Xu said, speaking through a
China has a prototype station in orbit and plans to launch the core
module of a follow-on outpost in 2018. Two laboratory modules would
follow in 2020 and 2022.
Congress has banned the U.S. space agency NASA from direct
collaborations or partnerships with China, primarily due to concerns
about technology transfer. China does have scientists participating
in the station's premier experiment, the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer
The U.S.-Chinese relationship is among the thornier issues facing
leaders of 32 space agencies, who also discussed robotic exploration
of the solar system, detecting potentially threatening asteroids,
expanding commercial space ventures and other initiatives.
In parallel space policy summit, hosted for the first time by the
U.S. Department of State, Deputy Secretary William Burns said on
Thursday that countries should make space exploration "a shared
"Despite the many pressures, challenges and urgent priorities facing
the United States at home and abroad, our commitment to space
exploration is only growing stronger," Burns said.
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The conferences also addressed expanding space programs in
developing countries as a way to create new business opportunities,
as well as serve educational purposes.
"Our emphasis ... is mostly on applications," Seidu Oneilo Mohammed,
director general of Nigeria's National Space Research and
Development Agency, told reporters at a press conference on Friday.
In addition to more communication satellites, "our concern is
feeding our people, creating jobs and eliminating poverty. That
relies more and more .. on agricultural management," he said.
Follow-on studies from the conferences are expected to generate
specific initiatives in robotic exploration of the solar system,
planetary protection, human spaceflight, asteroid mining,
space-based solar power systems and other areas.
(Reporting by Irene Klotz in Washington;
editing by Lisa Shumaker)
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