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NASA researcher pleads guilty to hiding Chinese government ties while accepting US funding

  • NASA researcher Zhengdong Cheng pleaded guilty on Thursday to charges of violating NASA regulations and falsifying official documents.
  • Cheng, who also worked as a professor at Texas A&M University, was arrested in August 2020 for allegedly hiding his ties with a Chinese university and a Chinese-owned company.
  • Cheng’s arrest came under the Trump-era China Initiative, which sought to counter national security threats such as hacking, trade secret theft and economic espionage associated with China.
  • The program was terminated in February amid claims of stunting academic collaboration and contributing to anti-Asian hate.

A NASA researcher pleaded guilty on Thursday to charges related to hiding ties with the Chinese Communist Party while accepting federal grant money.

Zhengdong Cheng, who also worked as a professor at Texas A&M University (TAMU) from 2004 until he was fired after his arrest in August 2020, was originally charged with wire fraud, conspiracy and making false statements. As part of an agreement with prosecutors, he pleaded guilty to new charges of violating NASA regulations and falsifying official documents.

China slams NASA chief’s claim that it is planning to ‘take over’ the Moon

  • Several Chinese experts, including Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian, denied NASA Administrator Bill Nelson’s recent claims that China is planning to “take over” the Moon.
  • “We must be very concerned that China is landing on the Moon and saying: 'It's ours now and you stay out,’” Nelson told German newspaper Bild on Saturday.
  • Responding to Nelson’s claims, Zhao accused NASA of ignoring facts, saying, “The U.S. side has constantly constructed a smear campaign against China's normal and reasonable outer space endeavors, and China firmly opposes such irresponsible remarks."
  • China is reportedly planning an uncrewed mission to the Moon later this decade, while the U.S. is preparing to send a crewed mission to the lunar surface by 2024 under its Artemis program.

China has denied NASA Administrator Bill Nelson’s claims that the East Asian country is planning to “take over” the Moon.

The head of NASA told German newspaper Bild on Saturday that China and the U.S. are in a “new race to space,” referencing the space race between the U.S. and the Soviet Union between the ‘50s and the ‘70s.

San Jose man faces up to 30 years in prison for smuggling US aviation tech from NASA contractor to China

  • Jonathan Yet Wing Soong, 34, has been charged with smuggling and violating export control laws after allegedly sending sensitive aeronautics software to Beihang University, a public university in Beijing.
  • Beihang is included on the U.S. Department of Commerce’s strictly regulated “Entity List” due to its involvement in the Chinese government’s military rocket systems and unmanned air vehicle systems.
  • Despite reportedly being aware of Beihang’s inclusion on the list, Soong allegedly facilitated the sale and transfer of a software package called CIFER — used in the development of unmanned aircraft — when he worked as a program administrator for the nonprofit Universities Space Research Association (USRA), which is contracted by NASA.
  • A certain Beijing Rainbow Technical Development Ltd. allegedly functioned as an intermediary and sent Soong payment on behalf of Beihang.
  • If convicted, Soong faces a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison and more than $1 million in fines.

A man from San Jose, California, has been charged with smuggling and violating export control laws after allegedly sending sensitive aeronautics software to a public university in Beijing.

Jonathan Yet Wing Soong, 34, worked as a program administrator for the Universities Space Research Association (USRA) between April 2016 and September 2020. USRA is contracted by NASA to “distribute domestically and internationally sensitive aeronautics-related software developed through the Army’s Software Transfer Agreement (STA) program,” according to a news release published by the U.S. Department of Justice on Thursday.

Tennessee professor accused of spying for China is acquitted by federal judge

NASA court case against Tennessee Professor

Anming Hu, the Chinese professor accused of hiding his ties with China while applying for a National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) project research grant, has been acquitted. 

The case: Hu, a former associate professor at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, had been accused of deliberately hiding a professorship he held with Beijing University of Technology on forms submitted to UT Knoxville and NASA, according to the Associated Press.

A spacecraft is named after Ellison Onizuka, NASA’s first Asian American astronaut

Ellison Onizuka, the first Asian American astronaut, was recently honored with a NASA spacecraft named after him. 

A fallen hero: Aerospace company Northrop Grumman named its NG-16 Cygnus spacecraft S.S. Ellison Onizuka after the astronaut died along with six other crew members in the tragic Space Shuttle Challenger mishap on Jan. 28, 1986, reported the Honolulu Star-Advertiser.

NASA Project Manager Rips Contingency Speech After Successful Mars Ingenuity Flight

MiMi Aung, the project manager for Ingenuity at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), was recently captured on camera ripping her prepared contingency speech in excitement after the successful flight of the helicopter on Mars.

The helicopter first became airborne on Monday at 3:34 a.m. EDT, according to NASA. Ingenuity hovered for 30 seconds at 10 feet above the Martian surface before landing safely for a total flight time of 39.1 seconds, becoming the “first-ever controlled, powered flight on another planet,” Newsweek reported.

Meet The Asian American ‘Martians’ Behind NASA’s Perseverance Rover


The successful landing of the NASA Perseverance rover on Mars on Thursday after its 293 million-mile journey from Earth was made possible by a team of scientists and engineers from multiple disciplines, including several Asian Americans.

Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), a federally funded research and development center (FFRDC) managed and operated in California by Caltech under NASA, employs a number of Asian American specialists who made notable contributions to the Mars 2020 mission. 

4 Asian American Astronauts Are Going to the Moon in 2024

The 18 members of NASA’s Moon landing mission, called the Artemis program, have been revealed, and four of their members are of Asian descent.

Who are the members: Vice President Mike Pence revealed the nine men and nine women members of the Artemis program at an event in Florida last week, according to BBC. Here are the four Asian American members of NASA’s moon landing mission for 2024.

Japanese Astronaut Successfully Completes NASA’s First Commercial Crew Program Flight

Soichi Noguchi

Astronaut Soichi Noguchi of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) docked to the International Space Station (ISS) at 11:01 p.m. EST on Monday, successfully completing the first of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program (CCP) flights.

Noguchi was with three NASA astronauts aboard SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft Resilience, which lifted off Sunday evening from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.