Former Nasa astronaut Lee Morin sees congenial relations on the horizon for the Chinese and US space programmes. Any competition between the two countries 'would not be fierce', he told students in Beijing yesterday. 'It will be a friendly and co-operative competition,' he said. Dr Morin said that despite 'very complicated' political factors, he was confident the US would work with China in space. A deputy assistant secretary in the US State Department, Dr Morin, 52, participated in the 13th shuttle mission to the International Space Station as an Atlantis crew member. He has logged 14 hours of space walks, spending 259 hours above the Earth's atmosphere. He shared his experiences with hundreds of students at the Beijing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics. Dr Morin applauded China's 'truly remarkable' achievements with its space programme, and its efforts to develop the technology to get 'a life agent off the planet'. 'Life has remained trapped in the bubble for billions of years,' he said, 'and the space mission is to fulfil the potential of life.' Dr Morin played down suggestions of prejudice against China's space efforts. 'In the United States, we congratulated the Chinese space programme and all of the scientists and engineers who made this achievement possible,' he said. 'China has joined the tiers of a very select group of nations that actually has developed the technology to put humans into space.' Students quizzed Dr Morin on how it felt to readjust to Earth's gravity and what it was like to look at the planet from space. 'When you have the opportunity to fly in space, you see how fragile the bubble is and how important it is to work together to take care of the Earth,' he said. Asked for advice for China's space explorers, he said: 'My only advice to China is to fly safe.'