Chinese exclusion policy of NASA

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Due to security concerns, all researchers from the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) are prohibited from working bilaterally with Chinese citizens affiliated with a Chinese state enterprise or entity.[1] In April 2011, the 112th United States Congress banned NASA from using its funds to host Chinese visitors at NASA facilities.[2]


Despite growing trade ties between both countries, a close scientific partnership with China has been rejected by several American politicians including Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA), who in 1999 stated:

They [China] are the evil empire.[3]

In 2010, Rep. John Culberson (R-TX) 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.[4][5]

In April 2011, the 112th United States Congress banned NASA from engaging in bilateral agreements and coordination with China.[2] As stated under Public Law 112-55, SEC. 539:

None of the funds made available by this Act may be used for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) or the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) 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[6]


Dean Cheng from the Heritage Foundation claimed more interaction with the Chinese is possible in the area of sharing already collected data. Cheng claims 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."[7]

Increased cooperation between China and Europe[edit]

Since the mid-2000s, China, Russia and Europe have been working together towards manned deep space exploration as highlighted by Mars-500, a joint Chinese-European-Russian experiment that will provide ground-based studies to complement orbital research in preparation for a planned manned mission to Mars. In 2011, the German Aerospace Center collaborated with Chinese scientists in the Shenzhou program, marking the first time both countries worked together on one of China's Shenzhou missions.[8] In 2016, European Space Agency announced their collaborative Dragon programme with China will extend to 2020.[9]


Geoffrey Marcy, an astronomy professor at the University of California, Berkeley, called the ban "completely shameful and unethical".[1] Sir Martin Rees, the current Astronomer Royal of Great Britain, called the ban a "deplorable 'own goal' by the US".[1]

In 2013, a number of American scientists decided to boycott a NASA meeting, with senior academics either withdrawing individually, or pulling out their entire research groups.[1] This was in response to actions by officials at NASA Ames to prohibit Chinese nationals from attending the Kepler Science Conference II. Rep. Frank Wolf was quick to respond in 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. The NASA Ames officials had mischaracterized the law as Kepler Science Conference II is a multilateral event.[10]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d Ian Sample. "US scientists boycott Nasa conference over China ban". The Guardian. Retrieved 5 October 2013.
  2. ^ a b Seitz, Virginia (11 September 2011), "Memorandum Opinion for the General Counsel, Office of Science and Technology Policy" (PDF), Office of Legal Counsel, 35, archived from the original (PDF) on 13 July 2012, retrieved 23 May 2012
  3. ^ ELIZABETH SHOGREN. "House OKs Extension of China Trade Ties". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 5 October 2013. Rep. Frank R. Wolf (R-VA) compared engaging in trade with China to trading with Nazi Germany. "They are the evil empire," he said.
  4. ^ John Culberson. "Bolden to Beijing?". United States House of Representatives. Archived from the original on 15 September 2013. Retrieved 5 October 2013.
  5. ^ "NASA chief to visit China". AFP. Retrieved 5 October 2013.
  6. ^ "CONSOLIDATED AND FURTHER CONTINUING APPROPRIATIONS ACT, 2012". United States Government Printing Office. Retrieved 5 October 2013.
  7. ^ Heritage Foundation, Prospects for U.S.-China Space Cooperation, April 2014
  8. ^ "China's 1st Space Docking Mission to Launch Today With German Experiment Aboard". Retrieved 5 October 2013.
  9. ^ "ESA's Dragon_cooperation with China extended to 2020". ESA. Retrieved 8 July 2016.
  10. ^ "Wolf Disputes Effect of Law on Chinese Participation in Kepler Conference - UPDATE". Retrieved 22 November 2013.