Russia and China signed a memorandum of understanding Tuesday that said they plan to cooperate to create a scientific research station on the moon.
The International Scientific Lunar Station will be built “on the surface and/or in the orbit of the moon” and will be designed for a variety of “multidisciplinary and multipurpose research work,” Russia said in a statement.
This work will include “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.”
“Russia and China traditionally strive to develop cooperation in the field of space technologies, space science and the use of outer space,” the statement read.
????? Глава Роскосмоса Дмитрий Рогозин и руководитель КНКА г-н Чжан Кэцзянь подписали Меморандум о взаимопонимании между Правительством КНР и Правительством РФ о сотрудничестве в области создания Международной научной лунной станции.
— РОСКОСМОС (@roscosmos) March 9, 2021
The nations have not yet released details about what they each will be responsible for, Axios reported.
This move comes after Russia opted not to join the U.S. and seven other nations in signing on to the Artemis Accords in October, according to Space News.
The accords are a set of principles for nations that want to participate in the NASA-led Artemis lunar exploration program to return astronauts to the moon by 2024.
“The U.S. advances its space agenda aggressively and sometimes unilaterally in recent years despite the concerns of the rest [of the] world, which made China and Russia very worried,” Zhang Ming, a researcher on international security and space issues at the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences, told Space News.
“The mistrust and skepticism towards U.S. motives will promote China and Russia to further their space cooperation.”
Zhang said Russia had expressed concern that the Artemis project was too “U.S.-centric” and she expected “more and more space and lunar cooperation between Russian and China” if the United States does not change.
China is also developing capabilities for deep space human spaceflight and a three-core launcher for potential lunar missions.
Brian Weeden of the Secure World Foundation added that the split between Russian and the U.S. has been coming for a long time.
“I think we’re at a much different U.S.-Russia space relationship than we had for the past few decades,” Weeden said.
“The space partnership with Russia in the [International Space Station] was driven more by national security and foreign policy reasons than a need to have Russian expertise. It’s useful, but not critical.”
Weeden said that although Russia has experience in robotic lunar landers, he does not think there will be a serious impact on Artemis.
The U.S. could end its support at the end of 2024, but NASA has considered extending it until 2028.
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