" This year China demonstrated manned rendezvous and docking, flying a crew of three (which included China's first female astronaut) to their crew-tended Tiangong-1 orbital vehicle. China plans to launch the larger Tiangong-2 in 2013 and Tiangong-3, a Zvezda-class core module in 2020.
The U.S. is at a decision point. On its present course, the United States will lose at least the perceived leadership role in human space exploration. But there is an alternate path and one that would again provide for dual access to the Space Station.
The U.S. could lead the way to bring China into the ISS program, and lead the work to adapt the Shenzhou spacecraft to be compatible with the ISS. The U.S. would continue funding the three commercial space endeavors to supplement and support the logistic needs of the Station.
This path would allow the U.S. to retain its leadership position in the current HSF program (ISS) while it re-evaluates the real needs of an optimized exploration program. A program that would transition the ISS partnership, with all its capabilities, to a beyond-LEO program with the United States remaining as the lead partner.
Thomas Reiter of the European Space Agency (ESA) has already stated that ESA plans to hold a series of meetings with the China National Space Administration, and explore closer cooperation in the areas of astronaut training, spacecraft docking and developing life support systems. ESA would also like China to become a member of the ISS program if U.S. objections can be overcome.""
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