The new colonial movement: The heads of the space agencies of both Europe and China held a virtual face-to-face discussion on April 1st, discussing their space operations as well as the possibility of future cooperation.
Zhang Kejian, administrator of the CNSA, and new ESA Director General Josef Aschbacher, who entered the post March 1, discussed a range of topics according to a short CNSA press release (Chinese). The parties outlined upcoming activities, with China recently approving a 14th Five-year plan for 2021-2025, and discussed lunar and deep space exploration, Earth observation, and cooperation in ground station.
Josef Aschbacher tweeted after the meeting that he had congratulated Zhang on the Chang’e-5 lunar sample return mission, which in December 2020 delivered to Earth 1.73 kilograms of lunar samples from Oceanus Procellarum on the moon’s near side.
…Karl Bergquist, ESA’s international relations administrator, told SpaceNews that ESA and CNSA went over ongoing activities including telemetry, tracking, and control support activities for the Chinese exploration program.
Apparently Zhang raised the issue of Europe contributing to China’s proposed lunar base. Aschbacher made no commitments, though he later stated that while there is “no ESA stance on this topic”, he anticipates future discussions on the topic.
Some of this is similar to the recent discussions between NASA and China, focused on exchanging telemetry of various orbiters to avoid the possibility of collisions or interference with their operation. I would not be surprised however if Europe expands this conversation and joins China in its space plans. The U.S. is shifting from a government-run space program — which both China and Europe favor — to a commercial model mostly run by private enterprise. Under that model there will be less opportunity for European participation in American space projects.
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