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World Astronauts Conference: We Are Ready for Space Cooperation with China

Sept. 15, 2014 (EIRNS)—In comments during the annual meeting of the Association of Space Explorers, held last week in Beijing, astronauts from various countries expressed their interest in cooperating with China in its manned space program, following invitations from China’s first astronaut, Yang Liwei, and other space officials. The final count for the conference was 91 astronauts from 18 countries.

Dumitru Prunariu, president of the ASE and Romania’s astronaut, expressed his impression of the models of China’s Tiangong-1 space lab and the Shenzhou-10 manned ship that the attending astronauts had the opportunity to see, saying,

"We are glad that China...is so open to international cooperation. Now China will build its own space station in 2022. We heard with great interest that China is inviting the international community to be part of experiments on board..."

American astronaut Pam Melroy who commanded a Space Shuttle mission, described the space station as "an interesting place where crew members with different origins and cultures work together because they have the same interests and passion for space exploration." In space, she said, "you have a total perspective...cooperation is a natural thing to do."

Koichi Wakata, a veteran Japanese astronaut who commanded an increment on the International Space Station, recounted how the ASE was holding its annual meeting in Tokyo when Yang Liwei flew, in 2003. "I was watching" Yang’s flight, Wakata reported. "It’s very exciting to see the achievements that you have done." He also said, "I’m looking forward to flying to China’s space station. Now, I have to learn Chinese, although it is difficult[!]"

The astronauts and cosmonauts were given unprecedented access to China’s astronaut training facilities. Rusty Schweickart, who flew on Apollo 9, commented upon the similarity between the training facilities he was shown in China for space walks, to the facilities used to train Schweickart and other Apollo astronauts for their EVAs. They also visited schools, communities, and enterprises, meeting with students, researchers, and ordinary Chinese people to share their experiences in space.