China has announced that it will join forces with Russia to launch the ILRS research station on the Moon, just one day after the US announced its alliance with Israel to strengthen its Artemis lunar exploration program. The Chinese and US space agencies have a very similar agenda to colonize our satellite with exploration and research bases, as a prelude to future missions to Mars.
NASA’s Artemis program is the successor to the Apollo program of missions to the Moon. It splits into Artemis I, which will send the unmanned Orion spacecraft to our satellite, aboard an SLS rocket; Artemis II, which will send Orion with a crew; and Artemis III, which aims to establish a base of operations, research and landing on the Moon’s south pole.
Artemis I will launch no earlier than March 2022, and the Moon base of Artemis III is yet to be dated, but it is anticipated that in 2025 the first woman and person of color will walk on the Moon. The Chinese space agency, CNSA, plans to install its ILRS research base, as announced last Friday, in 2035, at the South Pole, where NASA also intends to establish its base.
Chinese space missions to the moon do so under the Chang’e project. The Chang’e-4 probe landed on the far side of the Moon, and Chang’e 5 successfully returned a sample. The Chang’e-6 lunar probe is expected to do the same, taking samples from the most valuable areas of the Moon. Chang’e-7 is designed to explore the polar regions and shed light on the distribution of water on our satellite. Finally, Chang’e-8 will be the probe that will test the basic technologies related to the construction and monitoring work of the ILRS.
Gateway and ILRS101
NASA plans to place the Gateway modular station orbiting the Moon. A Gateway will be able to assemble Orion ships and mobile laboratories, and will represent a service station and stopover for trips and missions to the selenite surface.
The CNSA, together with Russia, plans to create the ILRS101 complex, which will also include an orbiting operations center, a lunar surface research base, and several rovers that investigate both the surface and the subsurface of the satellite.
“We will use the next five years to carry out exploration, before establishing a lunar research station, which are the objectives of the Chang’e-6 and Chang’e-7 missions,” said Wu Yanhua, deputy administrator of the CNSA. at last Friday’s briefing. “It will take another 10 years or so to complete the construction of the facility,” he added.
“Just like building a small town, a lunar research station must be equipped with power, communication, navigation, long-distance transportation, Moon round trip capability, and ground support systems. There must also be a of life support if we foresee that in the future there will be people in the station”, summed up the deputy administrator of the CNSA.
Both NASA and the CNSA have made a ‘partnership call’, or collaboration invitations, with agencies from other countries. NASA launched the ‘Artemis Agreements for the United Peaceful Exploration of Deep Space’ in 2020, which Israel has just joined, and which also includes Australia, Canada, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, the United Arab Emirates and the United Kingdom.