Russia and China have confirmed their plans to partner together and construct a lunar research station.
On Tuesday, top officials of the China National Space Administration (CNSA) and Roscosmos, Russia’s government space agency, “signed a memorandum of understanding” in order to build a moon outpost named the International Lunar Research Station (ILRS).
The China National Space Administration released a statement, saying:
The ILRS is a comprehensive scientific experiment base with the capability of long-term autonomous operation, built on the lunar surface and/or on the lunar orbit that will carry out multi-disciplinary and multi-objective scientific research activities such as the lunar exploration and utilization, lunar-based observation, basic scientific experiment and technical verification.
Within the framework of creation of the ILRS, China and Russia will use their experience in space science, R&D and use of space equipment and technology to jointly formulate a road map for the construction of the ILRS, and carry out the close collaboration on planning, demonstration, design, development, implementation and operation of the ILRS, including the promotion of the project to the international space communities.
CNN reports that Roscosmos also released a statement, saying that the two groups planned to “promote cooperation on the creation of an open-access ILRS for all interested countries and international partners, with the goal of strengthening research cooperation and promoting the exploration and use of outer space for peaceful purposes in the interests of all mankind.”
According to CNN:
The lunar space station will be “a complex of experimental and research facilities” created on the moon’s surface and/or in orbit of the moon, according to the Roscosmos statement. The facilities will be designed for a range of multidisciplinary research, including “testing technologies with the possibility of long-term unmanned operation with the prospect of human presence on the moon.”
China and Russia will now work on a road map for how to design, develop, and operate the station, and plan “its presentation to the world space community,” Roscosmos said.
The United States has made a similar push for moon travel as well, in NASA’s Artemis program. Artemis plans to put astronauts on the surface of the moon in the mid-2020s in order to develop a more defined human existence on the moon by the end of the 2020s.
NASA is working with other countries on the Artemis program, as well. The space department has signed onto partnerships within the private sector. Eight additional countries have signed the Artemis Accords, which has created a pathway for them to work with the United States in the program. Brazil has also demonstrated that it plans to sign the accords.
Russia and China have not signed the accords, even though Russia has worked with the United States in the avenue of space, most recognizably on the International Space Station program. Roscosmos chief Dmitry Rogozin reportedly said that Russia will most likely not be a partner in the Artemis program.
As reported by Space.com, China is not able to “participate substantially in the NASA moon push, at least not without new U.S. legislation.” Since 2011, NASA and the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy have been banned from working on space projects “with their Chinese counterparts, unless Congress approves such cooperation in advance.”