China confirms it will team up with Russia to explore the Moon

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China and Russia will sign an agreement to build a research station on the moon, officials at the Chinese space agency said.

The two countries aim to complete basic infrastructure construction for the lunar station by 2035, Wu Yanhua, a deputy director of China National Space Administration, told a briefing Friday in Beijing on Friday. That includes systems for energy, communication and life support, Wu said. 

China and Russia also agreed to cooperate on the launch of a robotic lunar mission, Chang’e 7, around 2025, said Liu Jizhong, director of the administration’s China Lunar Exploration and Space Engineering Center.

The announcements are the latest signs of closer cooperation between the two countries. Russian President Vladimir Putin is expected to be the most notable world leader to visit Beijing for the opening of the Winter Olympics next week.

By working together, China and Russia are teaming up in a new race to the moon among the world’s space powers. The U.S. next month has scheduled a major test of the Artemis program, an effort to return astronauts to the moon later this decade. 

Ye Peijian, chief designer of China’s first lunar probe, told state media that the country may be able to send astronauts to the moon for the first time by 2030. Before then, China wants to send robotic missions to explore water distribution as well as the poles of the moon, Liu said.

China’s most recent mission to the moon was the Chang’e 5, which last year returned to Earth with lunar samples. A rover that landed on the far side of the moon in 2019 is still exploring the surface. 

The officials said the joint program between China and Russia will also be open to global scientists. “We welcome the extensive participation of international colleagues,” Wu said.

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