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[i]As a former deputy NASA administrator and the head of China's Manned Space Engineering Office held back-channel talks, human spaceflight officials here offered an unprecedented opportunity to examine the Tiangong-1 docking target and the next in its series of Shenzhou human spacecraft, as well as previously off-limits space facilities.
And five of the six Chinese astronauts who have flown in space quizzed two former space shuttle commanders about aspects of their common profession, ranging from rendezvous and docking techniques to the best way to manage astronaut schedules.
"Because of a lack of contact in previous times, we haven't decided how to cooperate," replied Wang Wenbao, director of the China Manned Space Engineering Office, when asked if China would be willing to join the International Space Station partnership (ISS). "If we can open a channel so we can all sit together, then we can decide what we can do and what America can do."
"The important thing to know is that we had a meeting," says Fred Gregory, a three-time shuttle astronaut and deputy NASA administrator from 2002-05.
Gregory and Tom Henricks, a veteran of four shuttle missions who is president of Aviation Week, spent several hours briefing Chinese astronauts, engineers and space-medicine experts about their spaceflight experiences during a visit to Beijing Space City arranged by the Space Foundation, a private U.S. group. Among those participating were Yang Liwei, China's first astronaut; Zhai Zhigang, its first spacewalker; and three other Shenzhou spaceflight veterans.[/i]
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