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The Wolf Amendment is a law passed by the United States Congress in 2011, named after then–United States Representative Frank Wolf, that prohibits the United States National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) from using government funds to engage in direct, bilateral cooperation with the Chinese government and China-affiliated organizations from its activities without explicit authorization from the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the U.S. Congress. It has been inserted annually into appropriations bills since then.
In May 1999, the Report of the Select Committee on U.S. National Security and Military/Commercial Concerns with the People's Republic of China was made public. It alleged that technical information provided by American commercial satellite manufacturers to China in connection with satellite launches could have been used to improve Chinese intercontinental ballistic missile technology.
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.
(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.
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. 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. NASA later reversed the ban and admitted a mistake in barring individual Chinese nationals who did not represent their government in official capacity.
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. 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.
|Fiscal Year||Act||Law||Section||Date Passed|
|2011||DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE AND FULL-YEAR CONTINUING APPROPRIATIONS ACT||112-10||1340||2011-04-15|
|2022||Consolidated Appropriations Act||117-103||526||2022-03-15|
Dean Cheng from the Heritage Foundation argues that 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.". Sir Martin Rees, the fifteenth Astronomer Royal of Great Britain, has called the ban a "deplorable 'own goal' by the US".
- "DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE AND FULL-YEAR CONTINUING APPROPRIATIONS ACT, 2011". United States Congress. Archived from the original on 19 October 2020. Retrieved 2 August 2020.
- Berger, Eric (17 December 2020). "China collects Moon samples, may not share with NASA due to Wolf Amendmen". Ars Technica.
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- Sample, Ian (11 October 2013). "Nasa admits mistake over Chinese scientists' conference ban". The Guardian. Archived from the original on 19 January 2019. Retrieved 18 January 2019.
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- Jeffries, Hakeem S. (2022-03-15). "H.R.2471 - 117th Congress (2021-2022): Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2022". www.congress.gov. Retrieved 2022-03-28.
- "Heritage Foundation, Prospects for U.S.-China Space Cooperation, April 2014". Archived from the original on 2014-10-08. Retrieved 2014-10-31.