Updated at: 09/18/2013 7:05 AM
(AP) BEIJING - China is willing to open its future space station to foreign astronauts and even train them for such missions, a Chinese astronaut said.
China’s first man in space, Yang Liwei, was quoted by the official China Daily newspaper on Wednesday as saying China had received many such requests during the course of building a permanent station to be completed in 2020.
"We would like to train astronauts from other countries and organizations that have such a demand, and we would be glad to provide trips to foreign astronauts," Yang, now deputy director of China’s Manned Space Agency, was quoted as saying by the paper.
The report didn’t say where the requests came from, but Yang told Hong Kong’s Phoenix Satellite TV channel that China was focusing on cooperation with developing nations.
Yang’s 2003 flight made China only the third country after Russia and the U.S. to put a person in space on its own, and led to a string of successful crewed missions.
China launched an experimental space station, the Tiangong 1, in 2011, and has since sent two crewed missions to dock with it. The station is due be replaced in seven years by a much larger permanent one, the three-module Tiangong 2. It will weigh about 60 tons, about one-sixth the size of the 16-nation International Space Station.
China was barred from participating in the ISS, largely because of U.S. objections over political differences and the Chinese program’s close military links. Despite that, China has strong links with the Russian space program and has worked with France and Germany on scientific experiments related to spaceflight.
Yang was speaking at a human space technology workshop organized jointly with the United Nations, Beijing’s latest step toward aligning its program with those of other nations.
The five-day conference was closed to international news organizations, and workshop media officers said no copy of Yang’s remarks was available.
(Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)