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China and Russia to open moon base, expanding space cooperation

A Long March-5 rocket carrying the Chang’e-5 lunar mission lifts off at the Wenchang Space Launch Center in southern China on Nov. 24. (Mark Schiefelbein/AP)

China and Russia have agreed to jointly build a research station on the moon, expanding the two countries’ cooperation in space.

The lunar base will be open to “all interested countries and international partners,” according to an online statement Tuesday from the China National Space Administration.

The Chinese announcement did not give a target date for when the station will be complete.

China’s space administration said the research base will be located on the moon’s surface or in orbit, with capabilities for “long-term autonomous operation.” It will engage in research activities, including “lunar exploration and utilization.”

A memorandum of understanding was signed Tuesday by the two countries’ space administrations, the announcement said.

China lands a spacecraft on moon for third time, continuing ambitious exploration push

In the past few years, China has pushed to the front lines of space research for the first time, while Russia has been seeking to regain its leading position from the 1950s and ’60s. Russia was the first country to launch a satellite into orbit in 1957, and the first to send a person into space in 1961.

In the space race that ensued, the United States pulled ahead, landing the first humans on the moon in 1969.

China’s space achievements have been much more recent. In 2019, China became the first country to land an unmanned spacecraft on the far side of the moon, establishing the country’s arrival as a space power.

Then last year, China successfully ferried 2 kilograms (4.4 pounds) of lunar rock and soil back to Earth, the first moon matter to be brought back in 44 years.

Chinese leader Xi Jinping has called on the country to develop into a “major space power.”

A Chinese probe, the Tianwen-1, is orbiting Mars — where it is capturing striking images — and is set to land a rover on the surface of the Red Planet in May or June.

China lands a spacecraft on moon for third time, continuing ambitious exploration push

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