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NASA, China exchanged information on Mars orbiters

NASA, China exchanged information on Mars orbiters
© Getty Images

NASA sought congressional approval to coordinate with China's space agency and obtain information about the orbit of China's Mars rover, the space agency's acting administrator said last week.

Spacenews.com reported Tuesday that Steve Jurczyk made the comments during a meeting of the Federal Aviation Administration’s Commercial Space Transportation Advisory Committee on March 23, telling the committee that his agency took the action as part of efforts to avoid collisions with U.S. spacecraft.

“Most recently, we had an exchange with them on them providing their orbital data, their ephemeris data, for their Tianwen-1 Mars orbiting mission, so we could do conjunction analysis around Mars with the orbiters,” he said, according to the website.

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NASA confirmed the administrator's comments in a statement to Spacenews.com, adding that it coordinated with several countries to cut down the risk of collisions or other issues around Mars.

“To assure the safety of our respective missions, NASA is coordinating with the UAE, European Space Agency, Indian Space Research Organisation and the China National Space Administration, all of which have spacecraft in orbit around Mars, to exchange information on our respective Mars missions to ensure the safety of our respective spacecraft,” NASA said, according to Spacenews.com. “This limited exchange of information is consistent with customary good practices used to ensure effective communication among satellite operators and spacecraft safety in orbit.”

Regulations prohibit NASA from communicating with China unless 30 days notice is given to Congress and the agency along with several others acquire FBI certification stating that the proposed information exchange will not endanger U.S. national security.

China's space agency has grown in recent years and now plans along with Russia to construct an international lunar base, though plans have not settled on whether the base will be on the moon's surface or in orbit. The U.S. plans to land the first woman and next man on the moon in 2024 as part of NASA's Artemis Project.