The international space station partners in the long run should invite China to join the program as a partner, Europe’s space station director said.

Thomas Reiter, director of human spaceflight and operations at the 19-nation European Space Agency (ESA), said China’s obvious ambition in manned missions makes it a natural addition to the current space station partnership of the United States, Russia, Europe, Japan and Canada.

Speaking Dec. 13 in Bremen, Germany, after signing a contract for commercial operations of Europe’s section of the station, Reiter said China’s recent successes in preparing its own space station and launching astronauts into space leave little doubt as to its willingness to invest.

“Cooperation with China offers great potential and there are great perspectives for it,” Reiter said. “We could imagine joint activities at the ISS [the international space station], with China participating with ESA, or ESA participating in the Chinese space station.”



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