Hugh Pickens writes writes "Lieutenant General Frank Klotz (ret.), the former vice commander of Air Force Space Command, writes that it's worth considering whether aspects of the U.S.-Russian experience with space cooperation can be pursued with China to serve long-term American interests. "China has in many respects already reached the top tier of spacefaring nations — with profound implications for America's own interests in space," writes Klotz. While initially starting well behind the two original space powers, China has slowly but steadily added accomplishments to its space portfolio,conducting nineteen space launches in 2011 — twelve less than Russia but one more than the United States. It's worth recalling that even in the darkest days of the Cold War, the United States and its archrival at the time--the Soviet Union--embarked upon cooperative efforts in space, most famously with the joint Apollo-Soyuz docking mission in 1975 and today the first stage of one of the rockets that currently lofts U.S. national-security satellites into orbit--United Launch Alliance's Atlas V booster--uses the powerful RD-180 rocket engine, which is made in Russia. Washington has called for enhanced dialogue with Beijing on strategic issues and for military-to-military exchanges to help reduce uncertainty and potential misunderstandings, however, in May of last year, the House inserted a provision into the NASA appropriations bill prohibiting the US from spending any funds "to participate, collaborate, or coordinate bilaterally in any way with China or any Chinese-owned company" and blocking the hosting of official Chinese visitors at facilities belonging to or used by NASA. "This legislative action reportedly reflected deeply held concerns about protecting American intellectual property and sensitive technologies in the face of aggressive Chinese attempts to glean scientific and technical information from abroad," writes Klotz. "However, in the process, it foreclosed one possible avenue for gaining greater insight into China's intentions with respect to space.""