Russia and China signed an agreement of cooperation for the creation of an International Scientific Lunar Station on Earth's satellite or in its orbit, read the statements of the space agencies of China and Russia.
The countries have been negotiating for months while Russia pondered whether it would participate in NASA's Gateway program, a rival lunar space station that will be built by a coalition of other countries in the following years.
It is planned that the station will carry out various scientific work, including the exploration and use of the Moon. The agency said the station could be used by other countries as well. Thus, Russia and China want to promote peaceful space exploration. The countries will jointly design, develop, and operate the research station.
China began to explore space relatively late. However, in December 2020, the Chinese spacecraft Chang'e 5 successfully brought samples of rock and soil from the Moon back to Earth. Thanks to the successful mission, China became the third country in history after the United States and the USSR to collect samples of lunar soil. China's mission shows the country's growing ability in space.
Russia, whose predecessor, the USSR, was one of the leaders in space exploration, has been overshadowed by other countries in recent years. Last year, Russia lost its monopoly on transporting astronauts to the International Space Station following the successful launch of SpaceX.
As part of the Artemis program of NASA, it was planned to land "the first woman and the next man" on the surface of the Earth's satellite until 2024. At the same time, NASA acknowledged that due to lack of funds, this is an unattainable goal. The aim of the program was to organize scientific research and search for economic benefits from the use of the Moon.
Like NASA, China is seeking international support for its plans to place infrastructure on the Moon. NASA has begun to step up its efforts to return astronauts to the Moon under the Trump administration's Artemis program. Nine more countries have joined it so far, but Russia has refused to participate after the US tried to exclude Moscow during negotiations last year.
Soon, Russia turned its attention to China's lunar ambitions. Thus, its cooperation with China has become one of the main priorities in the development of the space industry. At the same time, it is not yet clear what kind of technical contribution will be made by Russia, whose space budget ranks third in the world after the United States and China.
China also held talks with the French space agency CNES, during which the countries discussed potential areas of cooperation regarding the Moon and Mars.