Europe space agency eyes manned flights with China (Update)

September 11, 2012 by Frank Jordans
In this Jan. 18 2007 file picture former German astronaut Thomas Reiter speaks during a news conference in Cologne, Germany, when he was reporting about his six-months mission aboard the International Space Station ISS. The European Space Agency is exploring the possibility of cooperating with China on manned space missions by the end of the decade.The head of ESA's human spaceflight division says some European astronauts are already learning Chinese in preparation for joint missions. (AP Photo/Hermann J. Knippertz.File)

(AP)—European astronauts could hitch a ride into orbit aboard Chinese spacecraft before the end of the decade, a senior official at the European Space Agency said Tuesday.

The head of ESA's human spaceflight division said his agency is exploring the possibility of joint space missions with China as part of a wider cooperation with the country. In 2003, China became only the third nation to launch a human into orbit after Russia and the United States.

"I would welcome a European astronaut flying aboard a Chinese spaceship," Thomas Reiter told The Associated Press in an interview on the sidelines of the ILA Berlin Air Show.

The German former astronaut said ESA is planning to slowly deepen cooperation with its Chinese counterpart and could aim for joint missions in "the second half of this decade."

"In fact, some of our astronauts have started Chinese language training," he said.

Despite being a member of the International Space Space program, ESA doesn't have its own means of getting astronauts into orbit but has instead paid for seats aboard Russian and American spacecraft.

Since the end of the U.S. shuttle program ESA has had to rely on Russia to get into space.

Reiter said the 19-nation agency plans to hold a series of meetings with its Chinese counterpart, the China National Space Administration, that will explore closer cooperation in the areas of astronaut training, spacecraft docking and developing life support systems.

"Then I think it's a question of political negotiations at a higher level to see if really a common mission could be achieved," he said.

Eventually, ESA would also like China to become a member of the ISS program if U.S. objections can be overcome.

"As I would welcome a European astronaut flying aboard a Chinese spaceship it would be of course a very, very powerful political sign to have China on board the ISS," said Reiter.

Explore further: Astronaut Thomas Reiter sets an ESA record

0 shares

Related Stories

Swedish ESA astronaut is ready to fly

November 30, 2006

European Space Agency astronaut Christer Fuglesang is about to become the first Swedish and the first Nordic astronaut in space.

Astronaut wouldn't refuse return to space

January 18, 2007

German astronaut Thomas Reiter of the European Space Agency held a news conference Thursday to tell reporters he would enjoy returning to space.

China selects first spacewomen trainees

July 28, 2005

China has officially selected its first group of 35 women to be trained as astronauts. The women, all between 17 and 20 years old, will train as pilots at the Chinese military's Aviation University, Xinhua, China's main government-run ...

Recommended for you

Astronomers study a rare multi-eclipsing quintet of stars

March 23, 2017

(Phys.org)—A team of astronomers led by Krzysztof Hełminiak of the Nicolaus Copernicus Astronomical Center in Toruń, Poland, has investigated an interesting bright quintuple stellar system in which each of the stars is ...

Giant magnetic fields in the universe

March 22, 2017

Astronomers from Bonn and Tautenburg in Thuringia (Germany) used the 100-m radio telescope at Effelsberg to observe several galaxy clusters. At the edges of these large accumulations of dark matter, stellar systems (galaxies), ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.