As their respective probes headed to Mars, China and the United States held consultations earlier this year in a series of unusual exchanges between the two rival nations.
The National Space Agency of China confirmed this Wednesday that it held working meetings and communications with NASA between January and March “to guarantee the flight safety” of its spacecraft.
US law prohibits nearly all contact between NASA and China over concerns about technology theft and because of the secretive nature of Beijing’s space program, which is backed by its military.
Exceptions can be made when NASA can certify to Congress that it has all the protections in place to protect your information, Acting US Space Agency Administrator Steve Jurczyk said in a video conference last week.
Jurczyk noted that the most recent exchange was when China provided orbital and other data for its mission to Mars so that it could analyze collision risk. “We have a specific commitment to them,” he said.
His statements were first reported by the website SpaceNews.
Jurczyk added that it will be up to the government of US President Joe Biden and Congress to determine whether and how the United States engages with China in non-military space activities as part of its overall strategy toward the Asian giant.
The orbit of Mars is busy this year after the arrival of probes from the United States, China and the United Arab Emirates.
NASA’s Perseverance rover landed on the surface of Mars in February and has begun its exploration work. The Chinese probe, Tianwen-1, sails around the planet in preparation for a descent in May or June. The one in Emirates is only in orbit and will not land.