China and Russia have signed a memorandum of understanding on the joint construction of an international lunar research station on Tuesday. According to their plan, the station will be built on the surface or in the orbit of the moon and will become a comprehensive base for long-term and autonomous experiments. This is breaking news for international space community.
First, this plan is very likely to be implemented. Russia accumulated rich experience in lunar exploration during the Soviet Union era, and it has developed a strong space technology. China is a latecomer in the race for lunar exploration. Its spacecraft has already completed a lunar mission and returned to Earth with moon surface samples. With the combined technology of the two countries, it is obvious that they will be able to complete the construction of a lunar research station.
It takes many years to build a project of this magnitude related to the moon. With a comprehensive strategic partnership of coordination for a new era, China and Russia have the stable political conditions necessary for long-term cooperation. The cooperation will in turn strengthen bilateral strategic mutual trust and promote comprehensive cooperation in various fields.
In 2017, the US launched its Artemis program which aims to send astronauts to the Moon before 2024. It is an international cooperation project. The European Space Agency and space research forces of Japan, Canada, the UK, Australia and some other countries were invited to participate. However, China and Russia did not participate in. The joint construction of the lunar scientific research station between China and Russia will provide new channels and areas for international space exploration and boost its true internationalization.
The space research is obviously still at its early stage. Costs are very high and so far, it has been mainly a game among major powers. Technology development and funding sources are two key parts, along with adequate economic conditions and political momentum. In the long run, most resources needed for human development will come from outer space. One day, there will be many businesses in the space industry and future generations will see wonderful changes in this field.
The US hopes to maintain its absolute advantage in space exploration in the long run and to lead the way in space regulations. But this is not fair. To participate in shaping the direction of space exploration and have a say in making rules, China and Russia need to be in the frontline of space exploration and promote balance and fairness with strength and real actions. As such, the space will not be a particular country’s high ground, but a fair one.
China-Russia space cooperation has the conditions to achieve equal and mutual benefits, and none will dominate over the other. The Artemis program is obviously dominated by the US, and others, including the European Space Agency, play the secondary role. We sincerely hope that the joint construction of the lunar scientific research station between China and Russia can be smoothly promoted and completed. It will prove that equal cooperation can also has clear goals and strong motivation. Thus, its realization can also set a positive example with political implications.
We also hope that China-Russia cooperation in lunar exploration will stimulate and promote greater international cooperation. The invisible boundary between the East and the West will be further broken. But of course, it depends on how the US reacts and interacts with China-Russia cooperation in the future.