The American space agency NASA announced on Friday, January 18 that it has been 50 years since the US astronauts first walked on the lunar surface but now they are in touch with China National Space Administration (CNSA) and coordinating for Moon exploration, as it navigates a strict legal framework aimed at preventing technology transfer to China.
In Twitter, NASA's associate administrator for the science mission directorate, Thomas Zurbuchen said, "With the required approval from Congress, NASA has been in discussions with China to explore the possibility of observing a signature of the landing plume of their lunar lander, Chang'e-4, using our @NASAMoon spacecraft's instrument."
On Monday, January 14 A similar statement was made by the deputy chief commander of China Lunar Exploration Program, Wu Yanhua and Zurbuchen's tweet has given an idea about the expected joint collaboration between two space agencies.
As per the statement, Yanhua said that while NASA shared information from their satellite, China told them about the latitude, longitude and time of the landing "in a timely manner."
Even though the hope was NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO), which is currently orbiting the moon, would be able to witness the historic touchdown of the Chinese lander, Chang'e-4 on January 3, as they provided the planned orbit path of LRO to China, the spacecraft was not at the right place at the right time.
Later, NASA said in a statement that for a number of reasons, the American agency "was not able to phase LRO's orbit to be at the optimal location during the landing, however NASA was still interested in possibly detecting the plume well after the landing."
"Science gathered about how lunar dust is ejected upwards during a spacecraft's landing could inform future missions and how they arrive on the lunar surface," the agency added.
However, while passing the Chang'e-4 landing site that is expected to take place on January 31, NASA's lunar orbiter will take its pictures as it did in 2013 for Chang'e-3.
In the statement, published on Friday, NASA said that their collaboration with China is transparent and "all NASA data associated with this activity are publicly available."
It should be noted that such collaboration needs a huge amount of funds, but as we know since 2011, US Congress has barred the space agency or the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy from using federal funds "to develop, design, plan, promulgate, implement or execute a bilateral policy, program, order, or contract of any kind to participate, collaborate or coordinate bilaterally in any way with China or any Chinese-owned company."
So in case of NASA's future collaboration with the Chinese space agency, they must convince the government as well as the FBI that their plans would "pose no risk of resulting in the transfer of technology, data, or other information with national security or economic security implications to China or a Chinese-owned company."