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Thursday, February 19, 2015, 15:03

Space: US urged to keep up with China

By Reuters

 Space: US urged to keep up with China
This picture taken on Nov 1, 2014 shows Chinese technicians checking an unmanned probe after it landed in Dorbod (Siziwang) Banner, north China's Inner Mongolia region. (PHOTO / AFP)

WASHINGTON - China's space program is expanding like never before and Washington must invest in military and civilian programs to keep up, a congressional hearing heard on Wednesday.

Experts speaking to Congress's US-China Economic and Security Review Commission acknowledged China's fast advances in military and civilian space technology.

They also reflect an enthusiasm for space exploration which in the United States has faded since the Apollo Program which landed Americans on the moon in 1969, they said.

"China right now is experiencing its Apollo years," Joan Johnson-Freese, a professor at the US Naval War College, told the hearing. "China gets the funding its needs."

While the budget of the US space agency NASA has been cut substantially, China's space program has benefited from its economic boom and political support from President Xi Jinping down, said Kevin Pollpeter, a China technology expert at the University of California-San Diego.

"They are also able to program out their activities into five-year plans and 15-year plans and this gives them a long-range goal to work with," he told the hearing.

Dean Cheng, of the Heritage Foundation think tank, said the US space industrial complex is failing in long-term planning and is aging compared to China's. It is particularly lacking in Chinese speakers with the scientific skills needed.

"China's space industrial workforce is perhaps the youngest of the space industrial powers," Cheng added. "They will be working at this for a long time. Innovation at the end of the day does tend to come from young people."

Xi has said he wants China to establish itself as a space superpower, but Beijing has made it clear its program is for peaceful purposes.

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