China, Russia reveal joint plan for lunar space station

China, Russia reveal joint plan for lunar space station

China and Russia announced earlier this week that they had partnered to build a lunar research station.

Russian space agency Roscosmos said in a statement Tuesday that it had signed an agreement with China’s National Space Administration (CNSA) to build a “complex of experimental research facilities created on the surface and/or in the orbit of the moon.”

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Roscosmos said the International Scientific Lunar Station (ILRS) would carry out “multidisciplinary and multipurpose research work, including the exploration and use of the Moon, lunar observations, fundamental research experiments and technology verification with the possibility of long-term unmanned operation with the prospect of a human presence on the moon.”

In its own release, CNSA explained that the space agencies would “adhere to the principle of ‘co-consultation, joint construction, and shared benefits” and that the ILRS would be open to all interested countries and international partners.

“China and Russia have been committed to cooperation in the fields of space technology, science and applications,” CNSA stated.

CNSA Administrator Zhang Kejian and General Director of Roscosmos State Corporation Dmitry Rogozin signed a memorandum of understanding during a video conference on behalf of their respective governments.

The two countries did not set a timeline for the proposal.

The memorandum also referenced China’s upcoming Chang’e-7 mission, saying the cooperation would be in the “framework” of that mission as well as Russia’s Luna-Resurs-1 Russian Orbital Spacecraft (OS) mission.

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The Chang’e-7 mission is a probe expected to be launched to the moon’s southern pole in 2024.

In December, Chang’e-5 returned samples from the moon that have since gone on display, making China the third nation after the U.S. and former Soviet Union to accomplish such a task.

The Luna-Resurs-1 spacecraft and Chang’e-7 will perform tests and the agencies are set to analyze the potential for mutual space experiments.

Rogozin also wrote that he had invited Kejian to the launch of Russia’s first modern lunar lander Luna 25 in October, according to The Guardian.

This year marks the 60th anniversary of Russia’s first-ever crewed space flight in April 1961.

Comparatively, China launched its first crewed mission in 2003, though the country has since made major strides in space exploration.

China has planned four crewed missions this year to work on its first permanent orbiting space station and the country has already launched two smaller experimental space stations and plans to land a rover on Mars in the coming months after launching its Tianwen-1 probe into orbit around the red planet.

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Russia is a participant in the International Space Station (ISS) with the United States — The New York Times notes American law prohibits NASA from cooperating with Beijing — and Soyuz rockets were once the only way to get to the ISS.

The U.S. plans to revisit the moon in a program called Artemis — sending the first woman and next man there by 2024.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.