WASHINGTON, Oct. 22 (Xinhua) -- The decision by U.S. space agency NASA to lift the ban prohibiting Chinese scientists from attending an upcoming conference has been lauded by China.
The move clears obstacles and opens up a channel for bilateral cooperation on space exploration between China and the U.S., which is conducive to the Chinese people, the American people and the human race as a whole.
Six Chinese scientists had their applications to attend the Kepler conference, scheduled to take place at NASA's Ames Research Center in California in November, rejected.
Simply stating that their bids were "being reviewed for clearance," NASA closed the door to Chinese scientists without giving solid reasons. However, on Tuesday the agency revealed it had "corrected" the decision to ban the researchers from attending.
"Yes, the scientists of Chinese origin who initially were excluded from applying to attend the Kepler Science Conference at the NASA's Ames Research Center next month now are able to apply," NASA spokesman Allard Beutel said.
The lifting of the ban was confirmed by one of the researchers, who told Xinhua Tuesday he has been granted security clearance from the space agency.
"Yes, everything is cleared," said the researcher, who declined to be named. "I'll be there (the Kepler conference)."
While this obstacle has seemingly been removed, there could be more in future, hindering the progress of China-U.S. cooperation on space.
The ban was based on a controversial law passed in 2011 by Frank Wolf, chairman of the House Appropriations subcommittee that funds NASA, which prohibits government funds from being used to host Chinese nationals at NASA facilities.
This "Wolf Clause" discriminating against Chinese scientists could still be employed whenever politicians consider it useful.
Gregory Kulacki, a senior analyst with the U.S.-based Union of Concerned Scientists' Global Security Program, believes that the furore surrounding the now-repealed ban is a wake-up call for "a few individuals within the United States Congress," in particular Congressman Frank Wolf.
Kulacki said the language of the law is "so broad, and the legal and financial penalties associated with potential violations so threatening, that even U.S. organizations not directly administered by NASA are afraid to reach out to colleagues in China."
He warned that until the legislation itself is removed, these kinds of incidents will "remain a constant feature" of U.S.-China relations with regards to space.
"It's improper to disqualify Chinese researchers from international exchange due to their nationality," said an unidentified spokesperson with the China Association for Science and Technology.
The exploration of the universe is a shared interest for all human beings, and international exchange and cooperation are vital to advancing scientific progress, the spokesperson said.
Leroy Chiao, a former NASA astronaut and commander of the International Space Station, said that Russians, Europeans and even the Canadians have called to bring China into the partnership.
NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, before his Asia trip in September, said that the Earth-science initiatives can benefit people around the world as they study and learn more about their home planet in the context of space.
The United States and China could start working together on space debris mitigation, disaster management and planetary science projects, Bolden suggested.
While there is room for China and the U.S. to work together in space science and exploration, rational and justified measures are needed to clear obstacles and bridge the divide.
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