China praises NASA’s RTF

by Chris Bergin

Sun Laiyan, chief of China’s National Space Administration, in a personal message to NASA chief Michael Griffin, congratulated him and the Discovery crew on a successful mission, suggesting that Sino-American space cooperation has a future.

“It was not a new flight, but a new challenge, and a test of the courage and wisdom of human beings,” remarked Laiyan to State media. “We welcome back beautiful Discovery, (which) is a symbol of greatness for all human beings.”

The Space Shuttle Discovery mission, designated STS-114, departed from the Kennedy Space Center on July 27 and returned without incident to Earth, landing at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. Landing plans at Cape Canaveral had to be changed due to weather conditions there.

“You and your colleagues have worked under great pressure and overcame all difficulties to bring about this mission success,” continued Laiyan, referring to the importance of STS-114 to the future of US manned flight missions. “The courage and technology you have demonstrated impressed the whole world.”

China is expected to launch its second manned mission sometime in October 2005. The Shenzhou VI mission will include two taikonauts (Chinese astronauts), and will last about five days. Two years ago this month China launched its first citizen into orbit, Colonel Yang Liwei.

Laiyan also commented on the future of Sino-American relations in space, stating, “I also believe that with our mutual effort, China-US space cooperation will continue to develop.”

Laiyan did not say whether a future space partnership between the two nations would be discussed during President Jintao Hu’s September visit to the US, his first since becoming leader of the People’s Republic.

The official visit between presidents Hu and Bush, originally scheduled for September 7, was rescheduled due to the impact of hurricane Katrina on the gulf coast states. The two leaders agreed to meet during the United Nation’s Sixtieth General Assembly meeting, to be held between September 14 and 16, 2005.

The agenda of the meeting between Hu and Bush will be dominated by trade, Taiwan, technology and arms.

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