Rafael Ben Ari / Newscom / SIPA
The current tensions between Beijing and Washington extend to the stars.
The NASA chief on Wednesday confided his fear of seeing the United States "cede territory" to China in space if no private project took over from the International Space Station (ISS), which is coming to an end of life.
“One thing worries me.
China is rapidly building what they call the Chinese international space station, ”said Jim Bridenstine, administrator of the American agency, during a hearing in Congress.
"They are quickly promoting it to all our international partners, in whom we have invested so much," he continued.
"It would be tragic, after all this time and so much effort, to abandon low earth orbit and cede this territory."
The difficult private financing
The ISS, assembled from 1998 by the United States and Russia in partnership with Canada, Europe and Japan, should be decommissioned by 2030. NASA does not want to replace it with another station, but would like to maintain an American presence in low earth orbit (the ISS is located at about 400 km altitude) thanks to the private sector.
Strategically, the United States would thus maintain a presence, while devoting the majority of space budgets to the Moon, Mars and more distant explorations.
But the profitability of such a project for companies remains to be proven, and Jim Bridenstine is demanding more credits from Congress to help "commercialize" low orbit.
For now, elected officials balk.
The future Chinese station, Tiangong, will be smaller than the ISS and should be launched around 2022. According to information last year from the New China agency, several countries would like to join this project with the shipment. scientific experiments, including France, Germany, Japan, Peru and Kenya.
International Space Station deviates from course to avoid space debris
Beijing space program cargo ship fails to return to earth