America’s Space Force has a new threat to consider – A joint Russian-Chinese moon base in the next decade. This could include lunar outposts on, and in orbit around, the Moon.
The Russian space agency Roscosmos and China’s National Space Administration (CNSA) recently announced their plans as Russia prepares to mark the 60th anniversary of Yuri’s Night — when Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin flew the first manned spacecraft – the Vostok 1 space capsule – into orbit on April 12, 1961.
Despite extensive collaboration with the U.S. and NASA for more than two decades building and manning the International Space Station (ISS), Russia is now moving toward more direct cooperation with China in space. This, even as Russian and American astronauts just traveled to the International Space Station together today in a Soyuz MS-18 spacecraft that took off from Kazakhstan “The three will work on hundreds of experiments in biology, biotechnology, physical science and Earth science,” AP reports.
According to ArsTechnica:
The heads of the Chinese and Russian space agencies signed an agreement on Tuesday to work together to build a “scientific” station on the Moon.
Under terms of a memorandum of understanding, the two countries will cooperate on creation of an “International Lunar Science Station” and plan to invite other countries to participate. The agreement was signed by Zhang Kejian, director of the China National Space Administration, and Dmitry Rogozin, the chief of Russia’s space corporation, Roscosmos.
The goal appears to both establish long-term, unmanned facilities on the Moon while building capabilities for a long-term human presence. And while both nations claim scientific motivations for these bases, few believe they will not also have military applications.
China has previously disclosed its ambitions to build an international lunar station at the South Pole of the Moon, beginning with robotic missions and followed by short-term human missions in the early 2030s. The country plans to establish a long-term human presence at the South Pole—which is believed to contain vast reserves of water ice—during the period of 2036 to 2045. These plans were initially discussed at a meeting of the Subcommittee of the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space last year and were reported by Space News.
Meanwhile, under intense pressure from the U.S. Senate, President Biden has confirmed the goal set by former President Trump to have a manned lunar presence, with partner nations, on the moon by the mid-2020s via the Artemis plan. Separately, NASA would also like to establish a lunar base and assess the viability of the water resources at the South Pole.
Russia’s Rogozin has stated that the Artemis plan is too “US-centric,” hence the Russian effort to work with China. Of concern, the European Space Agency (ESA) has previously also expressed interest in partnering with China on future missions to the Moon. ADN