The leaders of the Chinese National Space Administration (CNSA) and the Russian Space Agency have just signed a memorandum of understanding for the construction of a lunar outpost called the International Lunar Research Station (ILRS).
According to CNSA officials, the ILRS will be an autonomous scientific experimental base erected on the surface of the moon and / or put into orbit. Its task will be to conduct multidisciplinary scientific research activities with different goals to be achieved, such as lunar exploration, lunar observation, basic scientific experiments and technical verification.
An autonomous research base on the moon
The Memorandum of Understanding was signed on Tuesday March 9th. Officials said the collaboration aims to “establish a comprehensive collaboration within the ILRS that is open to all interested countries and international partners.” The agencies also want to strengthen scientific research exchanges and promote “the exploration and use of space by mankind for peaceful purposes”. However, neither of the two agencies presented a schedule for the start of construction of the lunar research station.
The United States is also targeting the moon with the Artemis program
Note that this collaboration comes at a time when the United States is also looking to advance moon exploration as part of NASA’s Artemis program. This program aims to send astronauts to the moon during this decade and establish a permanent human presence there both on and around the moon’s surface. NASA also plans to send astronauts to Mars by 2030, Space.com reports.
An autonomous research base on the moon. Photo Credit: Shutterstock / Design Projects
Nevertheless, NASA relies on the support of several international partners to carry out its Artemis program. The American space agency has therefore concluded “Artemis agreements” with other countries to enable them to participate in the program. According to Space.com, Brazil would be one of the countries willing to sign the agreements, but Russia and China would not.
Russia is turning away from the United States
Even if Russia has long worked with the United States on space projects such as the International Space Station, the head of Roscosmos, Dmitry Rogozin, has indicated that Russia will not join the Artemis program.
As for China, NASA and the White House Science and Technology Policy Bureau have not been able to collaborate with the country on space projects since 2011, and only congressional approval could lift that ban, but there is little hope that it will will this time.