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Russia and China have unveiled plans for a joint lunar space station, with the Russian space agency Roscomos saying it has signed an agreement with China’s National Space Administration (CNSA) to develop a “complex of experimental research facilities created on the surface and/or in the orbit of the moon”.
The CNSA, for its part, said the project was “open to all interested countries and international partners” in what experts said would be China’s biggest international space cooperation project to date.
The Roscosmos chief, Dmitry Rogozin, wrote that he had invited the CNSA chief, Zhang Kejian, to the launch of Russia’s first modern lunar lander, Luna 25, scheduled for 1 October. It is Russia’s first lunar lander since 1976.
Russia sent the first human into space but in the post-Soviet era it has been eclipsed by China and the US, which have both made strides in space exploration and research.
This year Russia celebrates the 60th anniversary of its first-ever crewed space flight. It sent Yuri Gagarin into space in April 1961, followed by the first woman, Valentina Tereshkova, two years later. The US space agency Nasa launched its first crewed space flight a month after Russia, sending Alan Shepard up on Mercury-Redstone 3.
China – which has sought closer partnership with Moscow – in 2020 launched its Tianwen-1 probe which is now orbiting Mars. In December 2020 it brought rock and soil samples from the Moon back to Earth, the first mission of this type in over 40 years.