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NASA ban on Chinese scientists sparks boycott


The restriction is based on a law passed by US congress and signed by president Obama

NasaWashington: Some prominent American astronomers are boycotting a NASA meeting next month on exoplanets due to a ban on attendance by Chinese scientists, experts said today.

The restriction is based on a law passed in 2011 and signed by President Barack Obama that prevents NASA funds from being used to collaborate with China or to host Chinese visitors at US space agency facilities.

Among those leading the boycott are Debra Fischer, an astronomy professor at Yale University, and Geoff Marcy, an astronomy professor at the University of California, Berkeley.

“In good conscience, I cannot attend a meeting that discriminates in this way. The meeting is about planets located trillions of miles away, with no national security implications,” Marcy wrote in an email to the organizers.

The legal language that bans NASA cooperation with the Chinese was inserted into a funding bill by Congressman Frank Wolf, who chairs the House Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies.

The law bans NASA funds from being used to work “bilaterally in any way with China or any Chinese-owned company” or being “used to effectuate the hosting of official Chinese visitors at facilities belonging to or utilized by NASA,” according to a copy of the legal text sent to AFP by Wolf’s assistant.

According to retired NASA astronaut Leroy Chiao, who was born in the United States to Chinese parents, Wolf and several other lawmakers are engaged in a “whole campaign” to prevent US aerospace involvement with China.

“Unfortunately, I think they are uninformed and they have got outdated ideas. Basically they are paranoid. They think China is trying to steal all of our technology,” Chiao said.

Chiao said that he supports better ties with China, based on the model of space cooperation that has existed between the United States and Russia since the 1990s.

“Cooperating in space helps the relationship between countries in other areas as well,” he said.


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