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1 November, 2006 - 15:13 By News Desk

Chinese space collaboration with The OU on cards

A delegation of Chinese scientists has been in Milton Keynes to lay the groundwork for a wide-ranging space technology collaboration.Representatives of the Chinese National Space Administration and Beihang University toured the facilities of The Open University in MK as part of an on-going series of meetings between UK and Chinese agencies, industry and academia in the field of space science, space technology and astronomy.

OU Professor of space sciences, John Zarnecki, said: “We are investigating future collaborative opportunities in space.”

It was the success of the OU’s scientific instruments in the Cassini-Huygens mission in January 2005, landing those instruments on the surface of Saturn’s moon, Titan, that propelled Milton Keynes and more particularly, The Open University and its space expertise into the international spotlight.

The first instrument to touch down was the surface science package containing nine sensors to investigate the physical properties of Titan’s surface, built with help from a team at The Open University.

The Chinese now have become big players in space exploration, launching one of its own communications satellites in October to provide more digital broadcast services to mainland China.

It became the third country in the world to put a man in space in 2003, followed by a two-man orbital mission in 2005.

Now China reportedly has plans for an unmanned trip to the Moon next year.

The head of the China National Space Agency, Sun Laiyan, is quoted by Reuters news agency as saying that China may one day offer trips into space for ‘tourists,’ similar to Russian schemes.

“We think that China’s space programme can solve many economic and social problems that we are now facing,” Sun is quoted as saying.

“China considers the development of its space industry as a strategic way to enhance its economic, scientific, technological and national defence strength, as well as a cohesive force for the unity of the Chinese people, in order to rejuvenate China.”

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