Science and Environment

Planetary pact: China and Russia to launch lunar space station

Anastasia Clark - Agence France-Presse
Planetary pact: China and Russia to launch lunar space station
(FILES) This file photo taken on June 10, 2019 shows the moon in the sky above Mandalay city in central Myanmar. Russia and China on March 9, 2021 signed a memorandum of understanding for the joint construction of a lunar space station, Russia's space agency Roscosmos said in a statement.
AFP/Ye Aung Thu

MOSCOW, Russia — Russia and China unveiled plans Tuesday for a joint lunar space station, as Moscow seeks to recapture the glory of its space pioneering days of Soviet times, and Beijing gears up its own extraterrestrial ambitions.

Though Moscow was once at the forefront of space travel — it sent the first man into space — its cosmic ambitions have dimmed thanks to poor financing and endemic corruption. 

It has been eclipsed by China and the United States, which have both clocked major wins in space exploration and research in recent years. 

The Russian space agency Roscomos said in a statement that it had signed an agreement with China's National Space Administration (CNSA) to develop a "complex of experimental research facilities created on the surface and/or in the orbit of the Moon".

The CNSA, for its part, said that the project was "open to all interested countries and international partners" in what experts said would be China's biggest international space cooperation project to date.

Moscow is seeking to re-take the lead in the space race.

This year, it celebrates the 60th anniversary of Russia's first-ever manned space flight — it sent Yuri Gagarin into space in April 1961, followed by the first woman, Valentina Tereshkova, two years later. 

The United States NASA space agency launched its first manned space flight a month after Russia, in May 1961, sending Alan Shepard up aboard Mercury-Redstone 3.

But Moscow has lagged behind both Washington and Beijing in the exploration of the Moon and Mars in recent years. 

In the meantime, China — which has sought closer partnership with Moscow — has started a successful space programme of its own.

'Big deal'

Last year, it launched its Tianwen-1 probe to Mars that is currently orbiting the Red Planet.

And in December, it successfully brought rock and soil samples from the Moon back to Earth, the first mission of this type in over 40 years.

Chen Lan, an independent analyst specialising in China's space programme, said the joint lunar space station was "a big deal". 

"This will be the largest international space cooperation project for China, so it's significant," Lan told AFP.

Roscosmos chief Dmitry Rogozin wrote on Twitter that he had invited CNSA chief Zhang Kejian to the launch of Russia's first modern lunar lander, Luna 25, scheduled for October 1 — the first lunar lander to be launched by Russia since 1976.

Eyes on Mars

The US space agency NASA has now set its sights on Mars, with its Perseverance rovers last week conducting their first test drive on the planet.

NASA eventually intends to conduct a possible human mission to the planet, even if planning is still at a very preliminary stage.

Moscow and Washington are also collaborating in the space sector — one of the few areas of cooperation left between the Cold War rivals.

However, Russia did not sign the US-led Artemis Accord last year for countries that want to participate in a lunar exploration scheme spearheaded by NASA.

Under the Artemis programme 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 for manned flights to the International Space Station (ISS) after the first successful mission of the US company Space X.

Elon Musk's SpaceX has become a key player in the modern space race and has announced plans to fly several members of the public to the Moon in 2023 on a trip bankrolled by a Japanese millionaire. 

A SpaceX Starship prototype exploded after landing in Texas in March,after climbing to an altitude of six miles (10 kilometres). The test flight was part of the company's ambitious project to take people to Mars.

vuukle comment




As It Happens
LATEST UPDATE: October 12, 2023 - 9:00am

Monitor major developments on space explorations and the status of missions.

October 12, 2023 - 9:00am

NASA reveals a sample collected from the 4.5-billion-year-old asteroid Bennu contains abundant water and carbon, offering more evidence for the theory that life on Earth was seeded from outer space.

The discovery follows a seven-year-round-trip to the distant rock as part of the OSIRIS-REx mission, which dropped off its precious payload in the Utah desert last month for painstaking scientific analysis.

"This is the biggest carbon-rich asteroid sample ever returned to Earth," NASA administrator Bill Nelson says at a press event at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, where the first images of black dust and pebbles were revealed. — AFP

October 11, 2023 - 1:57pm

NASA is set to reveal on Wednesday the first images of the largest asteroid sample ever collected in space, something scientists hope will yield clues about the earliest days of our solar system and perhaps the origins of life itself.

The OSIRIS-REx mission collected rock and dust from the asteroid Bennu in 2020, and a capsule containing the precious cargo successfully returned to Earth a little over two weeks ago, landing in the Utah desert.

It is now being painstakingly analyzed in a specialized clean room at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston. — AFP

October 7, 2023 - 12:00pm

A Spanish company launches the country's first private rocket on Saturday in a step towards bringing Spain into the exclusive club of space-faring nations.

The launch of the small MIURA1 rocket took place at 02:19 am (0019 GMT) from a military base in the southern region of Andalusia, according to the company, PLD Space.

The company hailed the launch as "successful" and said it had achieved all its "technical objectives". — AFP

October 1, 2023 - 6:33pm

India's Sun-monitoring spacecraft has crossed a landmark point on its journey to escape "the sphere of Earth's influence", its space agency says, days after the disappointment of its Moon rover failing to awaken.

The Aditya-L1 mission, which started its four-month journey towards the centre of the solar system on September 2, carries instruments to observe the Sun's outermost layers.

"The spacecraft has escaped the sphere of Earth's influence," the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) says in a statement. — AFP

September 22, 2023 - 3:56am

Carbon dioxide detected on Jupiter's moon Europa comes from the vast ocean beneath its icy shell, research using James Webb Space Telescope data, potentially bolstering hopes the hidden water could harbour life.

Scientists are confident there is a huge ocean of saltwater kilometres below Europa's ice-covered surface, making the moon a prime candidate for hosting extra-terrestrial life in our Solar System.

But determining whether this concealed ocean has the right chemical elements to support life has been difficult. — AFP

  • Latest
Are you sure you want to log out?

Philstar.com is one of the most vibrant, opinionated, discerning communities of readers on cyberspace. With your meaningful insights, help shape the stories that can shape the country. Sign up now!

Get Updated:

Signup for the News Round now

or sign in with