It’s not uncommon in the US for NASA officials to defend, either to members of Congress or the general public, the sums of money that are spent on the space program. However, it’s a bit surprising to see a Chinese official in the same situation. According to a Reuters report, China National Space Administration head Sun Laiyan “defended the billions of dollars China — a developing country where millions still struggle to clothe and feed themselves — earmarks for space exploration.” Sun said that “We think that China’s space program can solve many economic and social problems that we are now facing.” (Sound familiar?) Sun said that China’s space budget was only a tenth of NASA’s budget, but interestingly, that amount, $1.7 billion, is about three times more than what CNSA vice administrator Luo Ge said was China’s annual space budget back in April in a speech in Washington.
Sun’s comments came with the release of a white paper titled “China’s Space Activities in 2006″. The document primarily contains descriptions of what China has done in space in recent years, as well as general plans for the future. One of the goals mentioned in the report is to “strengthen legislation work”, specifically, “o formulate laws, regulations and space industrial policies for guiding and regulating space activities, increase the level of administration by law, and create a legislative environment favorable for the development of space activities.” Another goal, according to the white paper is for the government to “increase input to the space industry” while also encouraging “the establishment of a diverse, multi-channel space funding system”, which suggests that the Chinese government is looking for outside sources of money, such as through commercial sales, to support its overall space efforts.