Collaboration between the US and China on space programs has "hardly begun," and the two sides desire to build closer ties.
This was the message delivered during the landmark visit of Michael Griffin, the first National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) administrator to visit China.
He arrived in Beijing on Saturday and met with Sun Laiyan, head of the China National Space Administration (CNSA).
"With this visit, the US is taking the first step towards helping establish closer relations with China's space program planners," Griffin told reporters at the US Embassy yesterday. "But again, collaboration on human missions would be well down the road."
Commenting on his talks with Sun, the NASA chief said: "We have agreed we'll continue governmental discussions between NASA and the CNSA at least once a year."
He revealed the two sides were exploring the idea of starting a working group in areas such as earth science, climate research, data sharing on various science missions, and robotic explorations. "We believe that might be a productive thing to do, and we are going to explore it."
Griffin added: "The collaboration has not been proceeding at too fast a pace. We are at the start rather than at the end. So we need to let it evolve."
He also said that China had clearly made "enormous strides" in a very short period of time in developing its space program.
Griffin leaves for Shanghai today.
(China Daily September 26, 2006)