They assert that despite China’s pattern of stealing American technology and diverting it for military purposes, a limited space partnership between Washington and Beijing could reduce tensions and the likelihood of a destabilizing space race. The move would be akin to the cooperation between the U.S. and Russia’s civilian space programs during the height of the Cold War.

The debate gained more urgency recently after China became just the third nation to retrieve samples from the moon, the latest in a series of major achievements for its ambitious space program.

“Trying to exclude them I think is a failing strategy,” Pam Melroy, a former astronaut who is serving on Biden’s NASA transition team and is among those being considered to lead the space agency, told POLITICO before the election. “It’s very important that we engage.”