The US and Chinese space agencies speak and coordinate in a limited way to explore the moon, confirmed Friday, NASA, which must operate in a very strict legal framework imposed by the Congress, suspicious of the transfer of technology to China.
The head of the NASA scientist, Thomas Zurbuchen, tweeted on Friday that NASA had "had an interview with China" to have an American satellite that perhaps observed the Chinese probe the landing of Chang & # 4; and 4 on the moon January 3rd. the hidden face of the moon.
This is what the chief delegate of China's lunar exploration program, Wu Yanhua said. He explained at a press conference that China had given NASA the latitude, longitude and time expected for the lunar probe in advance, in the hope that the Lunar Reconnaissance satellite of NASA Orbiter (LRO) can observe this historic event.
NASA provided the planned orbit of the LRO. Finally, the satellite could not be in the right place at the right time.
In a statement, the US space agency explained that it would be in its interest to observe the dust cloud caused by the impact, with the LAMP instrument on board the satellite.
"For a variety of reasons, NASA was not able to regulate the orbit of the LRO so that it was in an optimal position to observe the landing, but NASA is still interested in the possibility of detecting the cloud, much after landing, "said the agency.
This type of observation will be useful for future American missions on the Moon, with the Americans wanting to return the probes and, ultimately, the astronauts. NASA wants to assemble a lunar orbit station by 2026.
Finally, the American satellite will pass on the site of Chang & # 39; and January 4, 31, announces the NASA. You will photograph it as you did for Chang & 3 and 2013.
"NASA and the CNSA (Chinese Space Agency) have agreed that any major discovery deriving from this coordination be made public to the world scientific community" in a scientific conference of the UN Committee for peaceful use of outer space in Vienna from 11 to 22 February.
– American return on the moon –
Since 2011, US law prohibits any space co-operation with China that could create a "transfer of technology, data or any information with implications for national or economic security".
For example, China does not participate in the International Space Station.
Exceptions are possible, but NASA must therefore provide certification to Congress and the FBI that does not represent any of these risks.
NASA stated in its statement that the cooperation was made in accordance with "the directives of the administration and the Congress" and was "transparent, mutual and mutually beneficial".
Asked by AFP, the competent committee of the United States Senate has not confirmed immediately.
The collaboration could have gone further, revealed the main designer of the Chinese lunar program, Wu Weiren.
According to him, the Americans had asked "a few years ago" that the Chinese would prolong the operation of the Chinese repeat satellite Queqiao, launched in May 2018, from three to five years.
Why? "They said, a little embarrassed, that they also wanted to land on the far side of the moon, and if we had left it longer, they could also use it," Wu Weiren said in a Sunday interview. Chinese public television CCTV.
This satellite allows machines located on the hidden side to communicate with the Earth.
The Americans had also raised the idea of placing a beacon on Chang & # 4; and 4, to help them solve them in the future. "I told them that Chang & 4 could be used as a beacon for them," said Wu Weiren.
For a more ambitious cooperation, for example on the international base that the Chinese have evoked in the long term, "the American restrictions will constitute a much wider barrier to overcome," says Henry Hertzfeld, director of the Space Policy Institute, AFP. George Washington University.
But the US Congress will still have the freedom to relax the few paragraphs of the law, adopted in retaliation after a wave of cyberattacks attributed to China.