Beijing and Moscow to develop experimental research facilities on the surface of the Moon and its orbit.
Russia and China have revealed plans for a joint lunar space station as Moscow seeks to reclaim the glory of its pioneering Soviet-era days in space, and Beijing prepares its own extraterrestrial ambitions.
Although Russia was once at the forefront of space travel, sending the first man into space, its cosmic ambitions have been dimmed thanks to low funding and endemic corruption.
It has been overshadowed by China and the United States, which have scored major victories in space exploration and research in recent years.
Russia’s Roscomos space agency said in a statement Tuesday that it signed an agreement with the China National Space Administration (CNSA) to develop a “complex of experimental research facilities created on the surface and / or in orbit of the Moon. .
CNSA, for its part, said the project was “open to all interested countries and international partners” in what experts said would be China’s largest international space cooperation project to date.
Russia seeks to regain leadership in the space race.
This year, it celebrates the 60th anniversary of Russia’s first manned spaceflight: it sent Yuri Gagarin into space in 1961, followed by the first woman, Valentina Tereshkova, two years later.
By contrast, the US space agency NASA only sent its first crewed flight into space in 1968.
But Moscow has lagged behind Washington and Beijing in exploring the moon and Mars in recent years.
Meanwhile, China, which has sought a closer partnership with Moscow, has launched a successful space program of its own.
‘A big problem’
Last year, Beijing launched its Tianwen-1 probe to Mars, which is currently orbiting the Red Planet.
And in December, it successfully brought rock and soil samples from the Moon to Earth, the first mission of its kind in more than 40 years.
Chen Lan, an independent analyst specializing in China’s space program, said the joint lunar space station was “a big problem.”
“This will be the largest international space cooperation project for China, so it is significant,” Lan said.
Roscosmos chief Dmitry Rogozin wrote on Twitter that he invited CNSA chief Zhang Kejian to the launch of Russia’s first modern lunar lander, Luna 25, scheduled for October 1, the first lander. lunar released by Russia since 1976.
Eyes on mars
NASA has now set its sights on Mars with its Perseverance rovers last week conducting its first test drive on the planet. NASA eventually intends to conduct a possible human mission to the planet, even if planning is still in a preliminary stage.
Moscow and Washington are also collaborating on the space sector, one of the few remaining areas of cooperation between Cold War rivals.
However, Russia did not sign the US-led Artemis Agreement last year for countries that want to participate in a NASA-led lunar exploration plan.
Under the Artemis program announced during the tenure of former US President Donald Trump, NASA plans to land the first woman and the next man on the moon by 2024.
In another blow to Russia’s space reputation, Roscosmos last year lost its monopoly on manned flights to the International Space Station (ISS) after the first successful mission of the American company Space X.
Elon Musks’ Space X has become a key player in the modern space race and has announced plans to take various members of the public to the Moon in 2023 on a trip financed by a Japanese millionaire.
Space X in March also landed a rocket prototype on Mars, but it exploded on the landing pad.