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Why-China-Banned-From-International-Space-Station
China Banned From ISS

In November 1998, the first module of the International Space Station was launched into orbit. Over the last two decades, it’s been the home to hundreds of astronauts from 19 different countries. This enormous collaboration between different nations shows just how much can be achieved when the world comes together.

However, not every nation is allowed to take part in the ISS program. China has never taken part in the program and since 2011 - they were officially banned from doing so.

In this article, we’re going to discuss at the history of unlikely space collaborations. We’re also going to look at why the US lost trust in China’s space program and China’s future plans to make their own space station.

In the midst of the Cold War, space was the ultimate frontier between the United States and the Soviet Union. After political tensions fueled the advancements in rocket technology, the space race eventually came to a conclusion when Apollo 11 successfully landed on the Moon.

As the political landscape of the Cold War began to ease, a milestone was reached in 1975 when the US and Soviets worked together on the Apollo-Soyuz Project - a mission which involved both nations docking their capsules together in space. The mission began in Baikonur where two Cosmonauts launched on the Soyuz 19 capsule.
Also Read - What Will Happen To The ISS In Future?
A few hours later, the Apollo capsule lifted off from US soil - launching three astronauts into space where it docked with the Soyuz capsule. Three hours after docking, the first international handshake in space took place through the hatch of the Soyuz capsule. This extraordinary moment signified a strong shift in the space race and ushered in a new era of international collaboration.

Fast forward 23 years and the largest space collaboration was about to begin - the International Space Station.

Spearheaded by NASA, the space station involved 15 nations and 5 different space agencies. Besides the technical challenges of developing and launching an entire space station, getting all of these countries to work together required an extreme amount of trust. At first, NASA was concerned that Russia would use the opportunity to transfer advanced technology for their own military use. But after the Columbia disaster grounded the Space Shuttle, NASA had no choice but to rely on Russia to transport astronauts to and from the space station.

Despite the worldwide collaboration required to build the ISS, China was one of the largest countries not invited to join the International Space Station. At the time, the Chinese Space Administration was only 5 years old and the rest of the nation’s felt that China was simply not ready to make a meaningful contribution to the project.

So, China plowed forward with their own space program - and in 2003, became the only nation other than the US and Russia to launch a human into space. As progress continued on the ISS, China stated their desire to join the ISS as a new member. However, legislation introduced by U.S. Congress in 2011 eliminated the possibility of China joining the ISS.

In this legislation, a provision known as the "Wolf Amendment" was passed to forbid NASA and U.S. companies from sharing technological advancements with the Chinese government. Although this may seem like a harsh decision, America’s distrust in China was not completely unfounded.

In 2007, China deployed an anti-satellite weapon to destroy one of its own weather satellites. This received worldwide criticism for the dangerous amounts of space debris it caused. A decade later, two Chinese nationals were charged by the U.S. Department of Justice for allegedly hacking information from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Despite being banned from the ISS, China continues to rapidly advance their space program.

In 2019, China became the first nation ever to successfully land a spacecraft on the far side of the Moon. In 2011, they launched a space station known as Tiangong 1, which was soon followed in 2016 by Tiangong 2. The final form of the Chinese Space Station will be 1/5 the size of the ISS and is expected to be completed by 2023.
Also Read - How Did NASA Broadcast Live Footage From The Moon In Apollo 11 Mission?
While the United States remains against the idea of a Chinese collaboration, other space agencies are not so keen to avoid partnership. The European Space Agency has been clear about their willingness to let China into the ISS - and countries such as Italy have even agreed to collaborate with China on future manned-space flight missions.

Whether they were rightfully excluded from the ISS or not, China has been successful in developing their own space program. Over the next few decades, they are poised to become an even bigger player within the space community. But at the end of the day, space exploration should bring nations together. Our greatest achievements in space come when large teams of people work together to achieve a shared goal.

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