For the United States, whose human spaceflight program is in the middle of an uneasy transition from space shuttle to Constellation program, cooperation with China has proceeded in fits and starts, analysts say.
China’s antisatellite weapon
Not surprisingly, China’s test of an antisatellite weapon in January 2007 – followed by the US Navy’s downing of a crippled US spy satellite in February – chilled cooperative overtures. Indeed, prior to China’s weapon test, members of the US-China Working Group in the US House of Representatives had expressed interest in exploring the possibility of inviting the Chinese to take part in the International Space Station (ISS) project, Dr. Kulacki says.
Recently, however, prospects for closer US-Chinese space cooperation appear to have brightened. In June, the US Treasury Department lifted sanctions against China imposed after allegations surfaced that China was helping Iran develop its missile program.
“That was important,” says Peggy Finarelli, a former National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) official and a senior fellow at the Center for Aerospace Policy Research at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va.