CHINA and Russia have pledged to build a shared Moon base, marking the start of a new era in space cooperation between the two countries.
A statement issued by China’s space agency on Wednesday said the International Lunar Research Station would also be open to use by other countries, but gave no timeline for its construction.
China and Russia have pledged to build a shared lunar research stationCredit: Alamy
The China National Space Administration (CNSA) described the project as a research base with the capability of long-term autonomous operation.
“The station would be built on the lunar surface and/or on the lunar orbit that will carry out … scientific research activities,” the statement said.
Those activities could include “lunar exploration and utilization, lunar-based observation, basic scientific experiment and technical verification.”
CNSA said a memorandum of understanding on the project was signed Tuesday by Zhang Kejian, administrator of the China National Space Administration, and Russian space agency Roscosmos chief Dmitry Rogozin.
An image shared by the China National Space Administration (CNSA) shows director Zhang Kejian (front) during the signing of the memorandum of understanding between China and Russia to build a shared lunar research baseCredit: AP:Associated Press
China drew heavily on Russian expertise in the early years of its space program, but has largely forged its own path since launching its first crewed mission in 2003.
Despite that, China’s Shenzhou spaceships closely resemble Russia’s Soyuz capsules and the CNSA has worked with countries around the world, apart from the U.S.
Congress bans almost all contacts between Nasa and China over concerns about technology theft and the secretive, military-backed nature of China’s space program.
Barack Obama made it illegal in 2011 for Nasa to collaborate with China or for US suppliers to provide the country with satellite parts.
“Russia and China will adhere to the principle of co-consultation, joint construction, and shared benefits, facilitate extensive cooperation in the ILRS, open to all interested countries and international partners, strengthen scientific research exchanges, and promote humanity’s exploration and use of outer space for peaceful purpose,” the Chinese statement said.
Nasa has plans to establish a permanent lunar base by 2030Credit: Blue Origin/NASA
Russia is a participant in the International Space Station but its space program has been somewhat eclipsed by those of China, the U.S., India and others.
In its most recent development, Russia successfully test-launched its heavy lift Angara A5 space rocket for the second time in December after lengthy delays and technical problems.
China has planned four crewed missions this year to work on its first permanent orbiting space station, the core module of which could be launched as soon as next month.
China has already launched two smaller experimental space stations, placed a rover on the little-explored far side of the moon in 2019 and has a spacecraft, the Tianwen-1, in a parking orbit around Mars in anticipation of landing a rover on the surface in the coming months.
If it succeeds, China would become only the second country after the U.S. to put a spacecraft on Mars.
Nasa’s Artemis lunar mission – key facts
Nasa’s Artemis lunar mission – key facts
- Nasa has pledged to land man on the Moon in 2024
- The mission, dubbed Artemis, will mark the first time astronauts have set foot on the lunar surface since 1972
- A giant Nasa rocket dubbed the Space Launch System will carry astronauts beyond Earth’s atmosphere
- Once at the Moon, two astronauts will descend to the surface from an orbiting craft called the Lunar Gateway
- Nasa has pledged that one of the landing crewa will be female, marking the first time a woman has set foot on the Moon
- The pair would land on the lunar south pole, where vast reserves of frozen water could be tapped for future explorers
- The landing system that brought the astronauts to the surface will then blast back to the orbiting Gateway satellite
- They will board an Orion capsule for the 250,000-mile trip back to Earth
- Nasa has a mountain of technical challenges to overcome before Artemis gets the green light
- It’s still not clear if everything will be ready in time for the ambitious 2024 launch date
- Nasa boss Jim Bridenstine has said the Moon will serve as a critical training ground for Mars expeditions, perhaps in the 2030s
In other news, Nasa last month announced that it is accepting applications for space fans who wish to send their name to Mars.
Nasa’s Perseverance rover revealed stunning video and audio recordings from the surface of the Red Planet on February 23.
And, space geeks have revealed stunning 4k footage of Mars captured by Nasa’s Curiosity rover.
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