“Our warmest congratulations to the People’s Republic of China on this outstanding achievement” said ESA Director General Jean-Jacques Dordain soon after the successful Shenzou launch.
“China becomes the third country to send human beings into space, demonstrating the reliability of its aerospace technology. This mission could open up a new era of wider cooperation in the world’s space community”, he added.

ESA and China already have a long-standing record of cooperation that began in 1980 with an agreement to facilitate the exchange of scientific information. Cooperation with the Chinese Academy of Science in connection with ESA’s Cluster satellites was set up in 1993, and another cooperation agreement linking ESA and China in the Double Star project was signed in 2001.

Double Star – two satellites to be launched by Chinese Long March 2C rockets in December 2003 and spring 2004 – will follow in the footsteps of ESA’s Cluster mission, studying the Sun’s effects on the Earth’s environment. Ten instruments will be provided by ESA, and eight by China.

In addition, following the recent agreement between the EU and China on Galileo, initial talks have taken place between ESA and the Chinese authorities to identify potential contributions that China can make to the European satellite navigation system.

The way has been paved not only for reciprocal exchanges between scientists, but also for the establishment of wide-ranging cooperation between ESA and the Chinese government. This should soon materialise with the signature of a 5-year cooperation agreement – currently being finalised – on space cooperation for peaceful purposes covering the areas of space science, Earth observation, environmental monitoring, meteorology, telecommunications and satellite navigation, microgravity research (biology and medicine), and human resource development and training.