China and Russia announced their intention to conduct joint missions to the Moon, positioning astronauts on a lunar station within the next decade. Although the two countries have not openly admitted this, this ambition comes as a response to the Artemis program, from NASA, which has similar goals.

According to a presentation made by representatives of the Chinese National Space Administration (CNSA) and the Roscosmos (the Russian space agency) during the Global Space Exploration conference in Moscow, the two countries' plan has three distinct phases, and involves the construction of a network of lunar bases and satellites.

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Image shows the Earth as seen from the surface of the Moon
Joint missions to the Moon are in plans by China and Russia, which plan to place astronauts on Earth's satellite within the next decade. Image: Elena11/Shutterstock

The first two phases of this plan are "mostly preparatory," said Wu Yanhua, interim director of the CNSA: "We are still focusing on unmanned lunar exploration for the next 10 years," said the director, when asked by the audience whether they would be sent astronauts to the moon by the two countries.

The idea of ​​China and Russia carrying out joint missions to the Moon is relatively new – representatives of the two space agencies publicly formalized a partnership in March 2021. However, this proximity symbolizes a new race to space, not unlike the US and the The former Soviet Union (USSR) did during the Cold War, when the Russians “debuted” this field by sending Major Yuri Gagarin into space in 1961. The Americans followed suit a few weeks later, with Alan Shepard.

This is because NASA, the American space agency, is currently providing technology and equipment for the Artemis program, whose objective is to make man return to the moon – specifically, at the south pole of our satellite – by the middle of this decade: the first estimates spoke of a manned lunar landing until 2024.

Unlike Artemis, which has broad participation from the private sector - especially companies such as SpaceX e Blue Origin -, China and Russia did not disclose parameters of external participation in the construction of equipment for their future missions to the Moon.

The partnership between the two countries, however, foresees the opening of its international lunar station to "foreign partners", including NASA itself: according to the general director of Roscosmos, Sergey Saveliev, the two countries are "working on legal procedures dedicated to exploration da Lua”, promising an initial version of the document by the end of this year.

It is worth remembering, however, that NASA already has the “Artemis Agreement”, a series of prerogatives related to good practices of international cooperation for space exploration – and of which Brazil is a signatory.

Regarding the agenda of China, Russia and their joint missions to the Moon, between 2021 and 2025, the two countries will make at least six trips to the satellite, with robots and non-human equipment, in order to find suitable locations for the installation of bases and also the conduct of “scientific recognition” – that is, points where the collection of samples and other research are favored.

From 2026 to 2035, the construction phase begins, with “massive deliveries” of cargo and the establishment of structures and facilities capable of receiving human experience. Finally, in 2036, the final phase begins, of "lunar research and exploration, technology verification, support for human lunar landings with the completed international lunar station, as well as expansion and maintenance of modules on demand", according to a slide shown during the presentation.

Last Monday (14), Russian President Vladimir Putin echoed the speech of partnership with the United States. Just before his meeting with US President Joe Biden, Putin told the BBC: "We are prepared to work with the US in space."

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