Entrepreneurial space companies could turn any competition between NASA and China. By the time NASA or Chinese astronauts reach the moon, Elon Musk, the billionaire founder of SpaceX, says he will send people to Mars. Even if Mr Musk’s comments turn out to be overly optimistic, the future of space exploration may not be controlled by national space agencies.
Some hope that the competition between China and the United States can turn into cooperation. But NASA is currently prohibited from working directly with the Chinese space agency or Chinese-owned companies. This provision was introduced in 2011 into the NASA Funding Act by Frank Wolf, a Republican congressman from Virginia at the time, to punish China for its record on human rights and the protection of US space technology.
In the near term, planetary scientists in the United States could be excluded from the scientific wealth of rocks collected by Chang’e-5, which came from a region on the moon much smaller than the one previously visited.
Although the law does not prevent non-NASA scientists from working with their Chinese counterparts, it does prevent Chinese scientists from looking at moon rocks that were brought back by NASA astronauts during the Apollo missions, and China may return that thrust.
“The United States clearly prohibits cooperation with China, right?” Xiao Long, a scientist at the China University of Geosciences in Wuhan who has provided advice to the Chinese space program, said. It certainly does not hope that China will develop quickly. They have already put their cards on the table. It’s not something to be done quietly. “
Speaking Tuesday to the Greater Houston Partnership, an economic development organization, Jim Bridenstein, NASA Administrator, spoke of a possible relaxation of the ban on cooperation between NASA and China.
“It’s more than my salary,” said Mr Bridenstine. But certainly, I think NASA is a diplomatic tool. I believe that assets are a tool that can be used, for example, as a dealer. I think it can be used for all kinds of purposes for international diplomacy. “