Space-exploring nations discuss sharing resources in future
Seeking to boldly go where few politicians have gone before, more than 30 space-faring nations gathered to map out ways to pool mankind's efforts to explore the stars.
The US State Department hosted the talks on Thursday, bringing together high-level envoys both from American allies and from countries traditionally seen as rivals in the space race.
"We all share a deep stake in extending humanity's reach further into the solar system, advancing innovation further and faster and extending the benefits of discovery to more people in more places," US Deputy Secretary of State William Burns said.
"The question facing us today is whether we can muster the courage and political will to advance space exploration and ensure that co-operation continues to trump competition."
China, Brazil, Japan, India and Russia have all sent delegations to the first such ministerial-level meeting focusing on space exploration - with participants listening to simultaneous translations through headsets.
In recent decades the US has scaled back its space programme funds, dropping plans to return to the moon. President Barack Obama called on Nasa to focus on new, deep-space capabilities to carry people to an asteroid by 2025 and Mars by 2030.
Last year, China made the first lunar landing in over four decades when its Yutu, or Jade Rabbit, rover vehicle drove onto the moon's surface. In November, India successfully lifted into orbit a spacecraft bound for Mars as it bids to become the first Asian nation to reach the red planet.
While many countries already work together on space projects - including the US$100 billion International Space Station - the aim of Thursday's talks was to begin to set out guidelines for global co-operation for future efforts to explore deep into our solar system, and maybe even beyond.
"As the number of space faring nations increases, as states' monopoly on knowledge and technology erodes, and as commercial interest in space exploration grows, international co-operation will prove more important than ever," Burns said.
More countries should be encouraged to take part in the ISS, and private efforts "vital to the next era of space exploration" should be boosted. And there could also be greater collaboration in defending the planet from space debris and near-earth objects, Burns said.
Heavy demands on over-stretched national budgets mean that "ambitious space exploration programmes are beyond the individual capabilities of most countries", said Paul Weissenberg, director general for enterprise and industry at the European Commission.
"Investing in space today is investing in employment, growth, innovation for tomorrow."