China exclusion policy of NASA

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Since 2011, the United States National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has been restricted from working with the Chinese government or other organisations affiliated with China, including the use of funds to host Chinese visitors at NASA facilities.[1]


In 2010, Rep. John Culberson urged President Barack Obama not to allow further contact between NASA and the China National Space Administration (CNSA). In a letter addressed to the President, he wrote:

I have grave concerns about the nature and goals of China’s space program and strongly oppose any cooperation between NASA and CNSA’s human space flight programs without Congressional authorization.[2][3]

In April 2011, the 112th United States Congress banned NASA from engaging in bilateral agreements and coordination with China.[1] As stated under Public Law 112–10, Sec. 1340:

(a) None of the funds made available by this division may be used for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration or the Office of Science and Technology Policy 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 or any Chinese-owned company unless such activities are specifically authorized by a law enacted after the date of enactment of this division. (b) The limitation in subsection (a) shall also apply to any funds used to effectuate the hosting of official Chinese visitors at facilities belonging to or utilized by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.[1]

In 2013, officials at NASA Ames prohibited Chinese nationals from attending Kepler Science Conference II. A number of American scientists boycotted the meeting, with senior academics either withdrawing individually or pulling out their entire research groups.[4] Rep. Frank Wolf wrote a letter to NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden, saying that the restriction only applied to bilateral meetings and activities between NASA and the Chinese government or Chinese-owned companies, whereas Kepler Science Conference II is a multilateral event.[5] NASA later reversed the ban and admitted a mistake in barring individual Chinese nationals who did not represent their government in official capacity.[6]

During China's 2019 Chang'e 4 mission, NASA collaborated with China to monitor the moon lander and Yutu 2 rover on the lunar far-side using NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter. NASA was able to do so by getting congressional approval for the specific interaction and sharing data with researchers globally.[7] NASA stated:

The statutory prohibition on NASA’s use of appropriated funds for bilateral cooperation with China…does not apply to activities that NASA has certified to Congress, [which] do not pose a risk of resulting in the transfer of technology, data or other information with national security or economic security implications to China; and that do not involve knowing interactions with officials who have been determined by the U.S. to have direct involvement with violations of human rights. In accordance with the law, NASA made the appropriate certification to Congress for this activity.[7]


Dean Cheng from the Heritage Foundation claimed more interaction with the Chinese is possible in the area of sharing already collected data, and that sharing data such as Geodesy information and lunar conditions may "help create a pattern of interaction that might lower some of the barriers to information exchange."[8]


Geoffrey Marcy, an astronomy professor at the University of California, Berkeley, called the ban "completely shameful and unethical".[4] Sir Martin Rees, the current Astronomer Royal of Great Britain, called the ban a "deplorable 'own goal' by the US".[4]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c "DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE AND FULL-YEAR CONTINUING APPROPRIATIONS ACT, 2011". United States Congress. Retrieved 2 August 2020.
  2. ^ John Culberson. "Bolden to Beijing?". United States House of Representatives. Archived from the original on 15 September 2013. Retrieved 5 October 2013.
  3. ^ "NASA chief to visit China". AFP. Retrieved 5 October 2013.
  4. ^ a b c Ian Sample. "US scientists boycott Nasa conference over China ban". The Guardian. Retrieved 5 October 2013.
  5. ^ "Wolf Disputes Effect of Law on Chinese Participation in Kepler Conference - UPDATE". Retrieved 22 November 2013.
  6. ^ Sample, Ian (11 October 2013). "Nasa admits mistake over Chinese scientists' conference ban". The Guardian.
  7. ^ a b "Farside Politics: The West Eyes Moon Cooperation with China". Scientific American. 7 February 2019. Retrieved 15 February 2019.
  8. ^ Heritage Foundation, Prospects for U.S.-China Space Cooperation, April 2014