Bolden Summarizes Recent Trip to China

Bolden Summarizes Recent Trip to China

Last week, NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden had an “all hands” meeting with Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC) employees. Among the topics was a brief summary of his recent trip to China. Other than a brief press release after the trip, few details have publicly emerged until now.

Traveling there with Bill Gerstenmaier, NASA Associate Administrator for Space Flight, and Peggy Whitson, Chief of the Astronaut Office, Bolden said “we got an opportunity to see everything.” That is in contrast to the 2006 trip by then-NASA Administrator Michael Griffin where the NASA group reportedly was provided little access to Chinese space facilities. Gerstenmaier and astronaut Shannon Lucid were part of the 2006 delegation.

Bolden reported that his NASA delegation started in Beijing and visited “most of their facilities where they produced the Long March” rocket, and also traveled to the Gobi Desert. China launches its human spaceflight missions from the Jiuquan launch center there. It is the original Chinese space launch site (now there are two more and a fourth under construction) and is the site for launching many Chinese satellites destined for high inclination orbits, including those that support military space missions.

He said that he stressed to the Chinese that if they are seeking to cooperate with the United States in space that “they will have to demonstrate to us that they could be transparent in all dealings,” “demonstrate that they were willing to exercise reciprocity,” and the cooperation “had to be mutually beneficial to both nations.” He also emphasized that he went there to listen, not “to propose or to make any deals or anything.” The latter was a matter of controversy before the trip. Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA) and others in Congress insisted that Bolden assure them before the trip that he would not broker any deals on human spaceflight cooperation while he was in China.

During the MSFC meeting, Bolden observed that the Chinese were “struggling right now with how they split up responsibility for programs,” and that the head of their human spaceflight program is also in charge of the Chinese anti-satellite program, which he found ironic. He did not name the individual, but said that his host started the conversation by saying that China does not need the United States and vice versa, but that if the two worked together “the potential…is incredible,” according to Bolden’s account.

Many other topics, mostly domestic, were also discussed. A transcript provided to by NASA is available here. Space News, which first revealed the existence of the transcript in a story posted Friday, reported that the meeting was held on November 16. NASA provided the transcript to upon request. It does not appear to be posted on any of NASA’s websites as of this moment.

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