Framework agreement concluded
On 16 December 2008, the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) and the China Manned Space Engineering Office (CMSEO) entered into a framework agreement setting out the terms for their continued cooperation. This lays important groundwork for the further development of space cooperation between the two countries. The signing of the agreement in Bonn marked the start of a three-day visit to DLR by a high-ranking Chinese delegation. During the other two days of the visit, the delegation was given a tour of DLR’s Cologne and Oberpfaffenhofen sites.
German experiments on board the Chinese Shenzhou spacecraft for the first time
On the occasion of the signing of the agreement at the DLR Space Agency (DLR Raumfahrt-Agentur) in Bonn, DLR Executive Board member Dr Ludwig Baumgarten, stated: "This agreement will enable Germany to expand its leading position in space research even further. I am very proud of this groundbreaking achievement for DLR." Baumgarten elaborated: "For the first time, German scientists will take part in the next mission of China’s Shenzhou 8 space capsule, in early 2011. They will conduct 17 biological and medical experiments in collaboration with Chinese scientists."
The researchers want to investigate immune, muscle and thyroid cells, as well as plants and euglena, under conditions of weightlessness. DLR will provide the experimental equipment required for this research: an incubator, a special heating cabinet with an integrated centrifuge. In return, the Chinese will arrange for the equipment to be carried and operated on board the Chinese Shenzhou space capsule. This type of cooperation brings great benefits to both parties. Each partner brings its own core competencies to the project, thus complementing each other perfectly. Germany leads the world in research under conditions of weightlessness and China, by virtue of its Shenzhou spacecraft, has an attractive platform for such research at its disposal. The research will be conducted jointly and to the benefit of both countries.
By signing the framework agreement, Germany and China have affirmed their commitment to developing their collaboration beyond this pioneering project 'Presence on the Shenzhou-8 mission' into a long-term endeavour and to extend it to cover more fields.
China's rising star in human spaceflight
After Russia and the US, China is the third nation capable of independently sending astronauts into space, as was demonstrated once again by the three-day mission of the Chinese Shenzhou-7 spacecraft (the name means ‘divine vessel’) in September 2008. This mission was an important milestone in Chinese space exploration. For the first time, three astronauts (called ‘taikonauts’ in Chinese) travelled on board the spacecraft, performing an extra-vehicular activity for the first time as well.