The Chinese Foreign Ministry on Monday rejected as “double standards’ NASA’s claim that Beijing had violated the space debris standards when the spent stage of China’s Long March 5B rocket re-entered the Earth’s atmosphere.
On Sunday, fragments of the heavy-lift carrier vehicle entered the atmosphere over the Indian Ocean. Most of the debris burned up. On the same day, NASA Administrator Bill Nelson stated that “it is clear that China is failing to meet responsible standards regarding their space debris,” calling on Beijing to act responsibly and transparently in space.
“In the past few days, everyone has been very concerned about the Chinese rocket debris. Some countries, including the United States, have exaggerated the situation, but, as we have already seen, the rocket stage entered the Earth’s atmosphere and there were no reports of damage,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told reporters.
The diplomat stressed that China closely monitored the trajectory of the rocket stage, noting that it could not explode in orbit and thus create space debris, as most of them burned up.
“The Chinese side is ready to develop more comprehensive international cooperation on the issue of space debris,” Hua said. “However, I would like to say that some US media and officials adhere to double standards on this issue. We all remember how in March this year, when the US rocket debris hit a farm in the United States, the US media romantically described it as ‘shooting stars.'”
The spokeswoman reiterated China’s readiness to strengthen the outer space cooperation, including with the United States, but noted that the practice of double standards was unacceptable to Beijing.
China launched the Long March 5B carrier rocket with the main module (Tianhe, or “Harmony of the Heavens”) for China’s future orbital station on April 29. Tianhe will be the control hub for the Tiangong (or “Heavenly Palace”) orbital station that China wants to finish assembling by 2022.