Signs emerged that Chinese and US space officials were laying the groundwork for possible future cooperation in space exploration.
The first came with Chinese representatives joining 16 nations invited to a NASA workshop in Washington focusing on opportunities for multinational cooperation in sending probes to the moon and Mars.
US State Department officials, who approved the invite to the Chinese delegation, said China's attendance was "precedent setting," coming in the wake of President George W. Bush's call for renewed international cooperation in the space effort.
Shortly after that meeting the head of the Chinese National Space Agency, Sun Laiyan, traveled to Washington for talks with his NASA counterpart, Sean O'Keefe.
While no groundbreaking agreements were made, officials said the exchange helped build understanding about Chinese and US space programs. Both sides agreed to hold further exchanges.
While that meeting was taking place, US astronaut Lee Morin visited China, giving a lecture to students at the Beijing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics.
Commenting on the possibility for enhanced cooperation, Morin said he was optimistic. "We'll see what future collaboration might be possible, but the right people are talking," he told the Beijing students.
Although China is not a participant in the International Space Station, its Shenzhou manned space capsule has a docking ring compatible with the station's system – possibly an indication of future collaboration.
Washington, however, has shown itself to be more cautious, with some politicians expressing concern at the military dimensions of China's space program.
But there's the old bottom line to think about. NASA itself is facing increasing pressure to trim hundreds of millions from its budget while meeting ambitious new exploration goals set out by President Bush.
Building up international cooperation and alliances is one way around the budget crunch.