WASHINGTON Jan 10 Officials from 32 of the
world's space-faring nations concluded a trio of summits on
Friday to tackle expanding participation in the International
Space Station and planning for eventual human expeditions to
Fifteen nations collaborated to build the space station, a
permanently staffed research complex that flies about 250 miles
(about 400 km) above Earth. On Wednesday, the Obama
Administration announced its intent to extend station operations
to at least 2024, four years beyond when it was slated to be
removed from orbit.
"We're very happy to hear about extension," Xu Dazhe,
administrator of the China National Space Administration, said
Friday at the International Academy of Astronautics conference,
one of three global space summits hosted in Washington this
"It means that by the time our space station is being built,
we would have a companion up there," Xu said, speaking through a
China has a prototype station in orbit and plans to launch
the core module of a follow-on outpost in 2018. Two laboratory
modules would follow in 2020 and 2022.
Congress has banned the U.S. space agency NASA from direct
collaborations or partnerships with China, primarily due to
concerns about technology transfer. China does have scientists
participating in the station's premier experiment, the Alpha
Magnetic Spectrometer particle detector.
The U.S.-Chinese relationship is among the thornier issues
facing leaders of 32 space agencies, who also discussed robotic
exploration of the solar system, detecting potentially
threatening asteroids, expanding commercial space ventures and
In parallel space policy summit, hosted for the first time
by the U.S. Department of State, Deputy Secretary William Burns
said on Thursday that countries should make space exploration "a
shared global priority."
"Despite the many pressures, challenges and urgent
priorities facing the United States at home and abroad, our
commitment to space exploration is only growing stronger," Burns
The conferences also addressed expanding space programs in
developing countries as a way to create new business
opportunities, as well as serve educational purposes.
"Our emphasis ... is mostly on applications," Seidu Oneilo
Mohammed, director general of Nigeria's National Space Research
and Development Agency, told reporters at a press conference on
In addition to more communication satellites, "our concern
is feeding our people, creating jobs and eliminating poverty.
That relies more and more .. on agricultural management," he
Follow-on studies from the conferences are expected to
generate specific initiatives in robotic exploration of the
solar system, planetary protection, human spaceflight, asteroid
mining, space-based solar power systems and other areas.
(Reporting by Irene Klotz in Washington; Editing by Lisa