China Says Space Program Being Held to 'Double Standard' Compared to U.S. After Rocket Debacle

Chinese officials claim they are being held to a double standard compared to the United States over the handling of the Long March 5B rocket that burned up over the Indian Ocean.

"China has been closely tracking its trajectory and issued statements on the re-entry situation in advance," Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying told the Associated Press. "There has been no report of harm on the ground. China also shares the results of re-entry predictions through international cooperation mechanisms."

American space officials and others accused Beijing of acting recklessly for allowing the debris from the rocket to fall back to earth in a seemingly uncontrolled manner over the weekend.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

China Rocket
China defended its handling of a rocket booster that burned up over the Indian Ocean and said on May 10, 2021, it was unfairly being held to different standards than the U.S. and other space programs. Above, a Long March 5B rocket carrying a module for a Chinese space station lifts off from the Wenchang Spacecraft Launch Site in Wenchang in southern China's Hainan Province in this April 29, 2021, photo released by China's Xinhua News Agency. Ju Zhenhua/Xinhua via AP

Hua believes China was treated unfairly for the incident, noting the reaction to debris from the U.S. launch of a SpaceX rocket that fell to earth along the border of Washington and Oregon in March.

"We are willing to work with other countries including the United States to strengthen cooperation in the use of outer space, but we also oppose double standards on this issue," Hua said.

The Chinese space agency said most of the 30-meter-long (100 feet) main stage of the rocket burned up above the Maldives.

The rocket carried the main section of the Tianhe, or Heavenly Harmony, space station into orbit on April 29. China plans 10 more launches to complete construction of the station.

Booster rockets usually fall back to earth soon after takeoff. China's space agency hasn't said why the Long March was sent temporarily into orbit.

NASA Administrator Bill Nelson accused China in a statement of "failing to meet responsible standards" in handling space debris.

"American media used romantic rhetoric like 'shooting stars lighting up the night sky,'" Hua said. "But when it comes to the Chinese side, it's a completely different approach."

China Rocket Band
A band plays music as a Long March 5B rocket, which carries China's Tianhe space station core module, lifts off from the Wenchang Space Launch Center, in southern China's Hainan province on April 29, 2021. China is defending its handling of the rocket against criticism from American officials. STR / AFP/AFP via Getty Images