China plans to build an antenna for deep space observation in Neuquén province in the southern Patagonia region, Argentina’s foreign ministry announced on Wednesday.
Argentina has a long history of space exploration- the country’s National Space Activities Commission (CONAE), was founded in 1960 by Teofilo Tabanera. It has been concentrated on Earth Observation satellites since the 1990′s until more recent international partnerships.
A quiet branch of government, usually far from the public eye, is making international headlines due to this and other international space partnerships. CONAE is already working with NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA), but this partnership opens a new avenue for Argentine space exploration.
The agreement – between Argentina’s space agency and China’s Agency for the Control and Tracking of Satellites – also defines more general “parameters for establishing earth-based installations,” and creates a basis for future cooperation, the ministry said.
As reported in Clarin, Chinese scientists were in Argentina last month preforming preliminary studies in Neuquén, Río Negro, Mendoza, Catamarca, and La Rioja for the proposed antenna.
China is evolving rapidly as a world leader in space exploration. In 2011, it conducted 19 space launches, only 12 less than Russia that year and one more than the United States.
Chinese spacecraft have already orbited the moon, and the country has declared its intent to land an unmanned probe and possibly astronauts on the lunar surface.
In late June, China captured headlines across the world when three Chinese astronauts manually docked their Shenzhou-9 spacecraft with the orbiting Tiangong-1 module. In doing so, China became only the third nation besides the United States and Russia to accomplish this complex maneuver.
Argentina’s Foreign Ministry emphasised the antenna is “a project of tremendous importance,” which will permit Argentina “to develop interplanetary exploration activities, to study deep space and celestial bodies, to monitor and control satellites, and to acquire scientific data.”
In 2003 China became the third country to send a man into space with the Shenzhou-5 mission.
Argentina’s space programme is one of the most advanced in Latin America- Argentina being the first Latin American country to launch an indigenously built satellite.
In addition to the recent development with China, The ESA is now finishing construction of an antenna in Mendoza province, to support deep space exploration.
The 600-tonne dish, will complete the 360-degree deep space coverage needed to ensure full telecommunications during ESA missions and enhance the return of scientific data.