Russia’s space chief Dmitry Rogozin recently said Moscow and Beijing were very close to signing a joint lunar station.
“We are now almost ready to sign an intergovernmental agreement to establish a lunar research base with China,” Rogozin said in an interview with state television channel Rossiya 24.
As previously reported by the EurAsian Times, China and Russia are opposed to a 19-nation US-led space bloc called the Artemis Accords, which aims to send a manned mission to the moon by 2025 and establish a governance framework for natural resource exploration and exploitation. Moons, Mars and elsewhere.
The mission intends to build a research station at the Moon’s South Pole with a supporting research station orbiting the Moon, called the Lunar Gateway.
Under this program, it is planned to launch an unmanned mission to the moon, Artemis 1, as early as July 2022.
China and Russia are promoting their own International Lunar Research Station (ILRS) as an alternative to the US-led Artemis program.
This joint Sino-Russian mission aims to build a base on the moon and install a space station in the moon’s orbit. The station is planned as a state-of-the-art experimental research facility created on the surface or in orbit of the Moon.
Plan for the International Research Station of the Moon
Last June, Roscosmos and the Chinese National Space Agency (CNSA) presented a plan for the ILRS during the Global Space Exploration Conference (GLEX 2021).
According to the roadmap, divided into three phases, five facilities and nine modules are planned for the station to support long and short missions to the moon’s surface and orbit. The construction of the station should be completed by 2035.
These facilities include CisLunar transport devices to support the return transmission between the Earth and the Moon, the orbit of the Moon, a soft landing, a takeoff on the lunar surface and re-entry into the Earth.
On the surface, the long-term support facility will include a command center, power and supply modules, and thermal management. Lunar transport and operations equipment will help the modules move the surface and support excavation or sampling.
The other two are lunar scientific equipment for orbital and surface experiments and ground support and application equipment.
In terms of modules, the designs reportedly include a “jumping robot” and clever mini-rovers that would move around the moon’s surface.
The first phase of ILRS construction
The station is to be built in three phases, with the first phase comprising six missions, including the Chinese missions Chang’e-4, 6 and 7 and the Russian Luna 25, 26 and 27. The first phase involves data collection and verification of a high-precision soft landing that has last until 2025.
In January 2019, the Chang’e-4 (CE-4) mission delivered a landing platform and rover named Yutu-2 to the far side of the Moon, marking the first soft landing on the far side of the moon in any country.
Yutu-2 landed in Von Kármán Crater, in the south pole basin of the Moon-Aitken, in January 2019. The purpose of CE-4 is to explore the geology of the area. CE-6 and CE-7 are expected to be launched around 2025.
CE-6 is to bring back to Earth lunar samples weighing up to 2 kilograms, and CE-7 will be tasked with landing at the lunar South Pole and uncovering local natural resources.
The CE-7 consists of five separate spacecraft, namely the orbiter, the lander, the rover, the jump probe, and the polar relay satellite.
Meanwhile, Russia also plans to launch its Luna-25 mission in August 2022, reactivating a series of Soviet-era robotic lunar missions that ended decades ago. The last in the series was Luna 24, which in 1976 sent back to Earth about 6 ounces (170 grams) of lunar material.
The lunar spacecraft Luna-25 will launch at the top of the Soyuz-2.1bs rocket with the upper stage of the Frigate from the Vostočny spaceport in the Amur region in the Far East. The primary target of the landing probe is the southern polar region of the Moon, specifically the site north of Boguslavsky Crater.
According to the Russian missile design office NPO Lavochkin designed the landing module Luna 25. This mission has three main tasks: to develop soft landing technology; to study the internal structure and exploration of natural resources, including water, in the circumpolar region of the Moon; and to study the effects of cosmic rays and electromagnetic radiation on the surface of the Moon.
In addition, Luna 25 is also to use a set of sensors on board to study the top of the moon and dust particles in the moon’s exosphere.
Luna 25 also had a camera called Pilot-D, a demonstration off-road relative navigation system developed by the European Space Agency (ESA). However, following the Russian invasion of Ukraine, ESA announced in April its decision to end cooperation on a Russian series of robotic missions to Luna Moon. Pilot-D will not be part of the Luna 25 mission now.
While Luna 26 and Luna 27, previously scheduled for 2024 and 2025, will also be postponed, Roscosmos chief Dmitry Rogozin said shortly after ESA ended cooperation.
The second and third phases of ILRS
Following the completion of the first phase in 2025, which may be delayed due to the possible postponement of Luna 26 and Luna 27, a second phase, called the “construction” phase, will begin in 2026 and should continue until 2035.
The construction phase will be divided into two sub-stages, the first from 2026 to 2030, which will include technology verification, sample return, massive cargo delivery and the launch of joint operations. During this period, two missions are planned, the Chinese CE-8 and the Russian Luna-28.
The second phase of the second phase will run from 2030 to 2035 and will include the completion of the Moon’s orbit and surface infrastructure for energy, communications, actual resource use and other technologies.
Five joint missions named ILRS-1 to 5 are planned for this sub-stage, and Russian superheaters are launched to launch the mission.
The third phase will begin with a manned landing after 2036, when the ILRS will be largely completed and people will be able to conduct research and exploration.
Meanwhile, China and Russia are trying to add more nations to the ILRS, and there have been reports of talks with ESA, Thailand, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia. However, as ESA withdrew from the Russian series of Luna missions due to the war in Ukraine, this project is likely to be much less attractive to other nations.
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