Next time POTUS needs to talk space with China, it will be a straightforward process: it turns out Washington and Beijing now have an emergency "space hotline" to ensure conflicts don't arise.
The Financial Times reports that the new phone line — which sounds an awful lot like the Red Telephone used to communicate between Moscow and Washington following the Cuban Missile Crisis — will "serve as a diplomatic safety valve." The newspaper adds that by "sharing technical information, officials hope that misunderstandings can be avoided and problems quickly resolved."
The new line will certainly streamline space chats. Speaking to the FT, US Assistant Secretary of State Frank Rose explained:
"Up until about nine or 10 months ago, we had to send notifications [of potential collisions, approaches or tests] to the Chinese via their ministry of foreign affairs. The chain would go from JSpOC [Joint Space Operations Center, at Vandenburg air base in California] to the Pentagon to the state department, to the US embassy in Beijing, and then on to a contact there."
It's not the first space hotline to exist. In the past, the president has also used a direct link with Moscow to chat about space issues. But China's an increasingly important player in the international space race, and clearly the US wants to be able act swiftly if things look not to be going to plan.
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