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China and Russia sign deal to develop joint base on the moon

Russia and China have signed an agreement to build an international lunar space station that will be “open to all interested countries”, Beijing’s space agency announced on Tuesday.

The two countries “will use their accumulated experience in space science, research and development as well as the use of space equipment and space technology to jointly develop a road map for the construction of an international lunar scientific research station (ILRS),” China National Space Administration said in a statement.

Though no timeline is accorded to the project, the lunar science station is being envisioned as a “complex of experimental and research facilities created on the surface and/or in orbit of the moon,” Russia’s Roscosmos space agency was quoted as saying by CNN.

The facility created would provide for a range of multidisciplinary research, including “testing technologies with the possibility of long-term unmanned operation with the prospect of human presence on the moon,” according to Roscosmos.

The two Asian superpowers have agreed to closely cooperate on designing, implementing and presenting the project.

Chen Lan, an analyst who specialises in China’s space programme, told AFP news agency that the project was a “big deal”.

Russia pioneered space explorations during the Soviet era but its efforts were later eclipsed by the US and China after the Soviet Union collapsed. It was the first country to send a human to outer space.

In fact, in April, Russia will mark the 60th anniversary of the first-ever crewed space mission, when it sent Yuri Gagarin to complete an orbit around Earth.

The first crewed mission by the US space agency, Nasa came a month after USSR’s when in May 1961, it sent Alan Shepard to space.

China has been a late bloomer with respect to its space expeditions. It sent its first human spaceflight in October 2003 by launching Yang Liwei on a 21-hour flight. But last December, China demonstrated its ever-increasing space capabilities when its unmanned Chang’e mission brought lunar samples back to Earth -- making it only the third country to successfully collect rocks from the moon.


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