China and Russia have officially invited other countries to join their plans for a future lunar base. Other details have also emerged with a first phase of activities that could begin as early as 2025.
The heads of the Chinese and Russian space agencies signed an agreement last March providing for the construction of a research station on the Moon. This complex will be designed to “carry out multidisciplinary and versatile research related to the exploration and exploitation of our satellite“. It will therefore oppose future installations of the Artemis program piloted by the United States.
As we have already mentioned in a previous article, in matters of deep space exploration, the “space race” now involves NASA and its partners against China and Russia which, as we recall, , is seriously considering withdrawing from the International Space Station partnership as early as 2025.
What exactly do we know about this future lunar base? Already, China and Russia will not be alone. The officials of the two countries have indeed officially invited other nations and international organizations to join the project “at all stages and levels”(Planning, design and development).
The announcement was made during an event on the sidelines of the 58th session of the Scientific and Technical Subcommittee of the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS) on April 23.
A project in four main phases
Further details related to these facilities were also released during the sixth annual China Space Day in Nanjing on April 24.
A priori, the first phase of the project will consist in collecting data by relying on several probes to determine the location of the future base near the lunar south pole. These missions include China’s Chang’e-6 and Chang’e-7 missions, and Russian missions Luna 25, 26 and 27. All of these ships should operate from 2024-2025.
As a reminder, the Chang’e-6 mission vessel, which will also aim to bring other lunar samples to Earth, will carry, among other things, a radon detector developed by IRAP in Toulouse.
The second phase of the project will be smoothed from 2026 to 2030. During this period, the Chinese mission Chang’e-8 and the Russian mission Luna 28 will settle at the chosen site. This will allow the construction of facilities powered by robotic systems to begin.
It is only during the third phase, over the period 2030-2035, that China hopes to rely on its super-heavy launcher. Long March 9 to send the first humans there. A long-term human presence at the lunar south pole will then be considered for the period 2036-2045.