There was action on the sidelines last week at the ATV-3 launch of Edoardo Amaldi in French Guiana when Europe and China discussed future cooperation in space.
The European Space Agency's Director General Jean-Jacques Dordain entertained his Chinese counterpart Wang Zhaoyao and they talked about how their organisatons might work together.
Possibilities included the prospect of a Chinese Shenzhou spacecraft docking with the International Space Station (ISS), according to a report of the meeting by Aviation Week.
There would be various hurdles to jump before such a momentous event could occur. On the practical level, China has developed a different docking system to that employed for the ISS.
More challenging are the political difficulties. NASA is, of course, a major player where the ISS is concerned and is currently banned from working with the Chinese in space.
Older readers will recall, however, how the U.S. and the Soviet Union managed to overcome their political differences and dock an Apollo spacecraft with a Soyuz ship in July 1975.
Currently scientists, including experts from the UK's Open University, are discussing future collaboration with China in missions to explore the planets.
According to Aviation Week, the meeting at Kourou, French Guiana, was held at Dordain's request. And Wang told their reporter: "We would like to have cooperation."
China has already successfully tested its own docking system by sending the unmanned Shenzhou 8 spacecraft to dock with a module called Tiangong 1 that was launched last year to simulate a space station. Shenzhou 9 will be launched with a crew of three to repeat the success.
Dordain wants China and Europe to discuss a range of areas where they might collaboate including training astronauts, life-support systems and ways to use each other’s space station facilities.
He said: "Ignoring China and not raising the question of cooperation would be the worst option. For the time being, we are raising the question and discussing what we can do."
Wang made it clear that he was open to working with Europe. He added: "Personally I think the technology is not a problem, but whether we can get to the station will depend on the attitude of the United States."
In December 2011 China set out its plans for space in a white paper published by the China National Space Administration. Plans include developing new launch vehicles, manned spaceflight and a human lunar landing.