China May Soon Join International Space Station

United States legislation preventing NASA from collaborating with the China National Space Administration may soon be relaxed.

Historic talks began between the US and China may soon reverse legislation that prevented NASA from working together with the Chinese Space Agency. The policy was written and implemented by the United States Congress in 2011, and it forbade NASA from working in any way whatsoever with China. However, both the US and Russia’s Roscosmos have recently met with China in order to discuss permitting Chinese spacecraft to dock at the space station. Russia has agreed to let Chinese spacecraft dock, while the US is still debating whether or not to go against the old legislation. Still, the United States’ willingness to sit down with China and at least discuss the possibility of working together in space is a far cry from the embargo-like policies our government showed in 2011.

International Space Station talks Between US and China are promising.

The willingness of the two governments to cooperate seems like it may lead to a positive outcome for China. Many, including famous former Russian cosmonaut Alexei Leonov, are optimistic about talks between the two superpowers. It is likely that Chinese astronauts will at least visit the International Space Station in a few years.

China could bring its own spacecraft to the International Space Station

China actually has its own spacecraft capable of docking at ISS, the Shenzhou. If an entire Shenzhou crew were to dock at the space station, the stay would have to be a short one. ISS only has systems capable of housing six astronauts, so a visit any longer than a few weeks would be a bad idea. The alternative to bringing the Chinese-built spacecraft would be to fly a Chinese astronaut or two aboard a Russian Soyuz spacecraft.

In that case, the Chinese astronauts could stay for a longer period of time, months instead of weeks. They may even become full crew members, helping the others while living on board. It is unclear which of the scenarios will occur, as talks are still preliminary and China’s wishes aren’t fully known. Either way, it’d be great to see the US, China, and Russia all collaborating together in space in the name of science.