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Space should be used for international cooperation: China Daily editorial

chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2022-01-28 20:42

China's Tiangong space station conducted a test using its robotic arm to reposition the Tianzhou 2 cargo spaceship. [Gif by the China Manned Space Agency]

More than 200 space launch missions, mostly carried by the Long March rocket family, were completed over the past five years.

The Beidou navigation system has completed its three-step operation, after launching 30 satellites into space, to provide services for the international community.

The Chang'e 5 spacecraft returned samples from the moon to Earth in 2020, becoming the first to do so since the Soviet Union's "Luna 24" mission in 1976.

Tianhe, the core module for China's space station in low-Earth orbit, was launched in April 2021. Apart from living quarters for crew members, it has a control center and docking hub, which will allow it to link with science modules.

The Tianwen 1 probe, China's first Mars mission carrying the Zhurong rover, was launched in June 2021, with the rover landing on the Utopia Planitia region of the Red Planet, making China only the second country after the US to land a rover on the planet.

These are just a few examples of China's achievements in space exploration from 2016 to 2021, as described in the white paper, "China's Space Program: A 2021 Perspective", released on Friday.

As the white paper says, cooperation with Russia to build an international lunar research station will be one of China's key space missions in the next five years, and China welcomes international participation in the mission at all phases and all levels.

The white paper also calls on all countries to conduct in-depth exchanges and cooperation in outer space on the basis of equality, mutual benefit and peaceful utilization.

Yet, as more than one foreign media outlet has highlighted, the United States tends to view outer space more as an area of competition. For instance, the US has established a Space Force, the first of its kind in the world, which was "rapidly developed from a theoretical concept to an operational service fully engaged in many activities", as Thomas E. Ayres, general counsel of the US Department of the Air Force, wrote in an article published on West Point's official website.

In May 2020, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration even drafted the Artemis Accords, which, contrary to the 1979 Moon Agreement declaring the moon as "common heritage of mankind", invented the concept of "safety zones" around lunar operations, allowing governments, even companies, to protect their research sites from "harmful interference". So far, 12 other countries have signed it.

In contrast, China, as the white paper emphasizes, calls for cooperation with other countries in astronaut selection and training, joint flights and other areas of space research and exploration.

It's time the US woke up and smelled the coffee. The world is no longer interested in its divisive, hegemonic schemes; instead, it is crying out for cooperation in every field, from fighting climate change, containing the COVID-19 pandemic to exploring outer space.

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