Luna 27 and Chang’e-6, for example, are expected to drill the surface and return samples to Earth – a feat China already accomplished last December with Chang’e-5 and the Soviet Union with the three-way Luna landers. times in the 1970s. In a second stage, between 2026 and 2030, the Chang’e-8 and Luna 28 missions will land separately with the first constituent elements of the new station.
The first of the Russian missions is scheduled for October, although the Russian space program has experienced long delays.
Ultimately, China hopes the station will demonstrate its ability to develop water, mineral and energy resources that could enable the short-term survival of astronauts and serve as a basis for deeper space exploration.
“A permanent base has both symbolic and power projection capabilities,” said Namrata Goswami, independent analyst and co-author of a new book on space exploration, “Scramble for the Skies.”
NASA has its own plans to send astronauts back to the moon – and one day send them to Mars – and has recruited partners under a deal, called the agreements of Artemis, governing space activities, including operations, experiments and the extraction of natural resources.
China is not explicitly excluded but seems almost certain not to sign, given US restrictions on space cooperation and its own determination to build an indigenous program. Russia, too, seems unlikely to sign, given its tilt towards China.
As Dr Johnson-Freese of the United States Naval War College said, “China is keeping Russia in the space game to a much greater extent than the Russian economy would otherwise support.”
Andrew E. Kramer reported from Moscow, and Steven Lee Myers from Seoul. Claire Fu in Beijing and Oleg Matsnev in Moscow contributed to the research.