- The Washington Times
Friday, January 10, 2014

Diplomats from more than 30 nations visited the State Department this week for a conference focused on fostering international cooperation in space travel, the first meeting of its kind the agency has held.

“Our commitment to space exploration is only growing stronger,” William Burns, Deputy Secretary of State, told the assembled dignitaries. “We know that space exploration fuels economic growth. It spurs scientific and technological innovation. It inspires our young people.”

International cooperation is becoming increasingly important as nations share the costs and rewards of space travel, Mr. Burns said.

“We all share a deep stake in extending humanity’s reach further into the solar system, advancing innovation further and faster, and extending the benefits of discovery to more people in more places,” he said.

The one-day International Space Exploration Forum was held Thursday at the State Department headquarters in Washington, D.C.

“Part of our hope is to encourage greater international cooperation on space exploration,” a State official told The Washington Times. “A lot of countries benefit from space exploration and therefore should be involved in it.”

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The conference comes less than a month after China landed a rover on the moon, the Jade Rabbit, becoming just the third nation to do so behind the U.S. and Russia. Likewise, last year India launched its own satellite to orbit and study Mars.

In conjunction with the conference, the U.S. announced its support to increase the mission-life of the International Space Station an additional four years to 2024. The station, which has been operating since construction began in 1998, has seen more than 80 nations conducting experiments and research.

“The ISS is a model for collaborative space exploration,” Charles Bolden, the head of NASA, said in prepared remarks at the conference. “Beyond its technical and engineering accomplishments, however, possibly one of the greatest accomplishments of the station is how it has united many nations in the common pursuit of something that none of us could have accomplished alone.”

The complete list of nations and groups who attended: Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, Colombia, Czech Republic, Denmark, the European Commission, the European Space Agency, France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, Republic of Korea, Mexico, the Netherlands, Nigeria, Norway, Romania, Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Thailand, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, Vietnam, the International Academy of Astronautics, and the U.S.

NASA is currently planning missions to send humans to visit an asteroid in 2025, and then to Mars in the 2030’s.

• Phillip Swarts can be reached at pswarts@washingtontimes.com.

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