One strange effect of the seven Oscar wins yesterday for Alfonso Cuarón’s film Gravity is that many more people will be conversant about something that was mostly the kind of thing specialists talked about—just how damaging space debris from anti-satellite (ASAT) weapons can be. In Gravity, astronauts played by Sandra Bullock and George Clooney struggle for their lives after debris from a satellite destroyed on-orbit by Russia threatens the space shuttle and space station. Read More
December 18th, 2013
Congressman Frank Wolf (R-VA) recently announced that he will not seek reelection in 2014. The congressman was well known for his opposition to cooperation between the U.S. and China in space. UCS criticized his approach to this question on numerous occasions.
The restrictions on U.S.—China cooperation in space are counterproductive. They punish well-meaning Chinese scientists and engineers and abet Chinese hard-liners who oppose cooperation every bit as strongly as Mr. Wolf. Lack of normal contact between the U.S. and Chinese space communities increases mistrust and misunderstanding, forestalls cooperative research that could benefit both and does little to curb China’s technological development. The restrictions are a public policy failure and before he departs Congressman Wolf should remove them. It would be a fitting end to the distinguished career of a public servant who, more often then not, advanced the role of science in the conduct of public policy.
In an age when many of our elected representatives cannot see far past the next election, Congressman Wolf took a principled stand on China and expended considerable personal effort to pursue it. His ban on cooperation in space was motivated, in part, by legitimate and important concerns about human rights in China. While the ban did little to advance human rights in China, and actually impinged upon the rights of many of the Chinese scientists and engineers caught up in the ban, the retiring congressman from Virginia deserves respect, not ridicule, for trying to make a difference.
December 6th, 2013
While the world is focusing on negotiations over the Iranian nuclear program, where do things stand on the other piece of the puzzle, the Iranian space-launch and missile program? Read More
November 20th, 2013
Last spring the Chinese Academy of Science (CAS) produced a report that included a lengthy section on the future of Chinese space science and technology. A translation with commentary is now available on the UCS website.
November 8th, 2013
Last week NASA Administrator Charles Bolden told an audience at Gettysburg College the U.S. space agency is resuming cooperation with China on space geodesy. Geodesy is the science of measurement of the size, shape, rotation, and gravitational field of the Earth and the study of geodesy incorporates a variety of space-based measurements. NASA and China have a cooperative agreement on space geodesy first signed in 1997 and renewed in 2010. Activities under that agreement were suspended after Congressman Frank Wolf (R-VA) attached language to a continuing resolution to fund the U.S. government in April 2011. The language forbids NASA “to develop, design, plan, promulgate, implement, or execute a bilateral policy, program, order, or contract of any kind to participate, collaborate, or coordinate bilaterally in any way with China.” Read More
October 23rd, 2013
Several leading American scientists recently learned their Chinese colleagues were denied access to the NASA Ames facility. The Kepler Science Conference is scheduled to be held at Ames in early November. NASA told Chinese applicants to the conference, and their U.S. sponsors, that federal legislation “forbids us from hosting any citizens of the People’s Republic of China at a conference held at facilities of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. Regarding those who are already working at other institutions in the US, due to security issues resulting from recent Congressional actions, they are under the same constraints.” Read More
September 27th, 2013
August 5th, 2013
Next year China will open a new space port on a tropical island in the South China Sea. In addition to supporting a new generation of wider-bodied space launch vehicles that will expand China’s capability to carry larger and heavier spacecraft into Earth orbit and beyond, the opening of the new launch facility on Hainan Island marks a noteworthy shift in the culture of the Chinese space community. Read More
June 28th, 2013
June 26th, 2013
It’s happening again. Seeing the earth from space is raising our awareness, as a species, of the precious and precarious nature of life on what astronomer Carl Sagan called our “mote of dust, suspended in a sunbeam.” Many U.S. astronauts commented on the transformative personal experience of seeing the earth from space. Chinese astronauts are having the same experience. More importantly, they are communicating the heart of Carl Sagan’s message to the large Chinese television audiences following their accomplishments in space. Read More