China and Russia plan to cooperate in establishing a new lunar research station, located either on the moon or in orbit, as space agencies in the two countries make an alternative to NASA’s Artemis program. The International Lunar Research Station (ILRS) is designed to operate independently on the surface of the moon or in lunar orbit, or perhaps both, and serves as a hub for scientific experiments and further exploration of the moon.
The Memorandum of Understanding signed this week will see the China National Space Administration (CNSA) and the Russian Space Agency Roscosmos enter into an arrangement of “joint consultation, joint construction and common benefits”. However, it will be “open to all interested countries and international partners,” they claim.
The aim of the ILRS is “to enhance exchanges of scientific research, promote human exploration and the use of outer space for peaceful purposes” CNSA stated in Declaration. It will be “a comprehensive scientific experiment base with long-term autonomous capability, built on the surface of the moon and / or on the moon’s orbit and which will carry out multidisciplinary and multi-purpose scientific research activities such as moon exploration, use and observation on the basis of the moon, basic scientific experiment and technical verification.”
Russia is currently working with NASA on the International Space Station, along with Japan’s JAXA, the European European Space Agency, and the Canadian Space Agency of Canada. However, neither Roscosmos nor CNSA are currently involved in NASA’s Artemis program, which aims to return astronauts to the moon and establish a presence on the lunar surface. This will then be used as a starting point for more manned missions, such as Mars, that NASA hopes to undertake in the 1930s.
Fine details about the China-Russia ILRS plans are lacking at the moment. The agreement signed this week will begin developing a roadmap for how to build the new Lunar Research Base and in what timeline. It will involve determining whether the base on the moon is the most practical, or some kind of space station orbiting it. The two space agencies left space to combine the two ideas, even if that turns out to be very helpful.
This is not the first time that the two countries have cooperated on space projects. The two are also working together on exploring the moon and deep space, among other projects. Neither has signed NASA’s Artemis Agreements, a broad set of agreements that include obligations for peaceful exploration, providing emergency assistance to employees of other space agencies, compliance with the Outer Space Treaty, registering space objects as well as developing ways to dispose of space debris. .