Since 2006 there have been a series of news articles reporting Chinese customers for space tourism, from MSNBC, the state owned China Daily, South Africa’s iol.ca.za, Pakistan’s Daily Times, and the technology website EE Times. Reports range from one businessman to half a dozen to literally dozens of Chinese lining up to go where only six Chinamen have gone before

One of the UK’s oldest newspapers (as the weekly current affairs magazine styles itself) The Economist broke a story last week that space tourists, aka spaceflight participants, on US launches would not be subject to the US government’s International Traffic of Arms Regulations (ITAR) that oversee technology exports – an activity that US law can deem to have occured if a non-US citizen so much as looks at ITAR restricted information

A glorious day for Bigelow Aerospace which is said to have asked the US government for a ruling on whether it would have to apply for what is known as a technical assistance agreeement (to overcome ITAR restrictions) for its customers who would travel (on an as yet unspecified transportation system) early in the next decade to the orbital complexes that Bigelow plans

Alas it is not the revolution that the Chinese customers for Virgin Galactic and others will be cheering about. Despite their government’s purchase of US government debt bonds, bank rolling a significant chunk of president Obama’s American Recovery and Reinvestment Act’s billions, its citizens, The Economist reports, are lumped in with Sudan, Iran and North Korea

The Economist’s article says

though the ruling still precludes…nationals from Sudan, Iran, North Korea and China will not be allowed to fly or train on suborbital passenger flights, or visit Bigelow’s space station

However many Chinese millionaires really did flash their cash in the years since those 2006 stories emerged is anybody’s guess but its bound to irk some

*Chen is a common Chinese family name and its use here is not meant to refer to anyone in particular