Despite the rhetoric of a space race between the United States and China, experts say there are opportunities for the countries to expand cooperation in space that could have broader benefits.
Civil space cooperation between NASA and Chinese organizations is sharply restricted by language commonly known as the Wolf Amendment, first placed in an appropriations bill in 2011 by then-U.S. Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.) Similar language has been included in subsequent appropriations bills, including the fiscal year 2019 appropriations bill enacted in February.
The Wolf Amendment, though, doesn’t bar cooperation between the two countries in civil spaceflight. “A lot of people think that the Wolf Amendment is a prohibition on working with the Chinese. It’s not,” said Mike Gold, chairman of the Commercial Space Transportation Advisory Committee, during a March 29 panel discussion on U.S.-China cooperation by the Secure World Foundation.
The provision, he noted, allows for cooperation if there is certification from the FBI that such efforts don’t pose a national security risk and if Congress has been notified of the plan. “To me, those are two commonsense steps,” he said. That has allowed some limited cooperation in areas like science and aeronautics.
However, many still see the amendment ...