China is willing to cooperate with India in space programmes but this depends on the governments deciding the extent of collaboration, a top Chinese aerospace scientist has said, playing down the so-called “space race” between the two countries.
“We are very willing to cooperate with India in the field of aerospace,” said Sun Weigang, chief engineer of China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC).
Sun spoke to Hindustan Times at the Global Space Exploration Conference (GLEX) 2017 in Beijing after delivering a keynote talk on “The Engineering Plan of China’s Lunar Exploration Program Phase III”.
India, despite its standing as an emerging player in the sector, was the notable absentee at the three-day conference that brought together space engineers, scientists, entrepreneurs, educators, agency representatives and policy-makers from dozens of countries.
Several international delegates expressed surprise at India not being represented at the meet.
Sun didn't comment on India’s absence but said top Indian and Chinese officials were in contact over possible collaborative projects. “The directors of space agencies from both sides have met and have discussed about cooperation and collaboration,” he said.
He said both countries should invest in space programmes. If the two governments were willing, then the possible areas of cooperation is very wide, he added.
It emerged last year that India and China were cooperating on the proposed “BRICS Constellation of satellites”.
Media reports on a space summit in New Delhi last year quoted Wu Yan Hua, deputy administrator of the Chinese National Space Agency (CNSA) as saying that China was “in dialogue with India on the BRICS Constellation for disaster risk reduction”.
Sun was among the top speakers at GLEX, co-organised by the International Astronautical Federation and the Chinese Society of Astronautics.
Despite India’s competitive space programme, including its successful Mars orbiter project, China is considered to have a more advanced programme with its six manned space missions to date.
Valanathan Munsami, chief executive officer of the South African National Space Agency, said it was surprising that India wasn’t present at the conference.
Speaking of collaborating with the Indian Space Research Organisation, Munsami said talks were ongoing about launching a joint science mission by South Africa, Brazil and India. “We would bring in the satellite bus, Brazil would bring in the instruments and India would launch it,” he said.