China has completed feasibility studies for the fourth phase of its lunar exploration program and is expected to establish an international research station at the moon’s south pole in the future, said Weiren Wu, chief designer of China’s lunar exploration program. To achieve this goal, the space agencies of China and Russia signed a ‘Memorandum of Understanding’ on cooperation in the construction of the International Lunar Research Station.
As reported by China’s Xinhua news agency, Weiren Wu said in an interview that three missions are planned for the fourth phase of the lunar exploration program. The program includes the collection of lunar samples from the South Pole by the Chang’e-6 lunar probe in 2023 or 2024. This will be followed later by detailed investigations of the resources at the Moon’s south pole by Chang’e-7 and testing of key technologies in preparation for the construction of Chang’e-8’s lunar research station.
Wu explained that there could be a polar day and night at the moon’s south pole, like at Earth’s north and south poles. The Moon’s rotation period is the same as its rotation period, both of which are 28 days. Therefore, there may be more than 180 consecutive days of light at the Moon’s south pole, which would be extremely convenient for astronauts conducting scientific research.
On March 9, 2021, Zhang Kejian, head of China National Space Administration and Dmitry Rogozin, director general of Roscosmos, signed a ‘Memorandum of Understanding’ to build an international scientific research station on the Moon.
The lunar station agreement marks the latest development around Beijing’s efforts to explore the moon with its Russian partner, as well as rivals such as NASA, which is barred from working with China under a law passed by Congress in 2011.
Wu said that under the MoU, China and Russia would leverage their experience in space science, research and development, as well as their space equipment and technology. The two countries will jointly work out a schedule for the construction of an international lunar research station, cooperating closely in the planning, design, development and implementation of the project, Wu said.
PolarJournal, Heiner Kubny