Russia and China are joining forces to build a research base on the Moon, called the International Lunar Research Station, by the year 2035.
The research station will rival NASA’s Lunar Gateway, a small space station that will orbit the Moon as part of the space agency’s Artemis Mission, which aims to put the first woman on the lunar surface by 2024.
Officials at the China National Space Administration (CNSA), the national space agency of China, confirmed the plans between the two nations on Friday.
The basic layout of the International Lunar Research Station (ILRS) will be completed by 2035, Wu Yanhua, director of the CNSA, stated.
Russia and China collaborate on lunar base
The initial phases of construction of ILRS will involve creating energy systems, a communication network, and life support technology for the lunar research center.
The construction of the base aligns with China’s larger plan to put an astronaut on the Moon by 2030. China will launch a series of rover and exploratory missions to the Moon beginning in 2024.
Although Russia and China are building the ILRS together, it will be open for other countries to join as well. “We welcome the extensive participation of international colleagues,” Wu stressed.
The base will have a research center stationed on the Moon itself, as well as an orbiter sent out into space, and several exploration rovers.
On the other hand, NASA’s Lunar Gateway will only orbit the moon, and there will be no structure on surface of the celestial body. The Lunar Gateway is expected to play a major role in the future of space exploration for the US.
Russia initially wanted to collaborate with NASA on the Lunar Gateway project, and an informal statement between NASA and Roscosmos (the national space agency of Russia) regarding the project was signed in 2017.
Roscosmos announced in January of last year that they would no longer participate in the project.
China shut out of international space exploration
The recent announcement regarding the ILRS comes almost a year after Russia and China signed a memorandum to launch the program in March 2021. According to the document, the purpose of the ILRS is to support “multidisciplinary and multipurpose research work.”
For decades, China has not participated in international efforts for space exploration, such as the International Space Station, which hosts astronauts from Europe, Canada, the US, Japan, and Russia.
The US voted against allowing China to participate in the ISS in 2007, and since then, the country has explored space alone.
China is in the process of building its own space station to rival the ISS. The station, called Tiangong, is expected to be completed by the end of 2022.
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