The Russian space agency Roscosmos expects to hold further talks with China at a meeting in June drawing on a February deal on lunar exploration. The February deal, which took the form of an MoU (memorandum of understanding), stated China and Russia’s intention to construct an “International Lunar Research Station” near the moon’s south pole. Neither nation provided any additional information about the facility or its potential development.
A Roscosmos official stated on April 2 that the details of the pact are being worked out. “We’ve already entered into an agreement with China to use an automatic station to explore the moon. During a press conference regarding the forthcoming Global Space Exploration Conference (GLEX) in St. Petersburg, Russia, Sergey Krikalev, who serves as the executive director in charge of the human spaceflight at Roscosmos, stated, “The deal has been concluded, and we are only ironing out those specifics at the moment.”
Additional deals between Russia and China may be concluded during the meeting in mid-June due to these talks. In answer to a query, he said via an interpreter, “Some deals can be prepared, and whether they are concluded or not may rely on how talks go.” “We have some talks scheduled on the outskirts of the forum.”
The February deal, as well as previous comments by Dmitry Rogozin, the head of Roscosmos, denying involvement in NASA’s lunar Gateway mission, point to a two-track path to lunar exploration: one driven by the US, Europe, Canada, and Japan, and the other headed by China and Russia. Although this has sparked talk of a modern “space war” akin to the 1960s race to the moon between the US and the former Soviet Union, lunar exploration’s new rivalry is moving far more slowly.
It will also be a more complicated rivalry since Russia will be participating as well as partnering with the US. When asked later in the press conference whether Russia will collaborate with China on its forthcoming space station, Krikalev first stressed continuing collaboration with the other Foreign Space Station partners.
“We have a very strong relationship with the European Space Agency, NASA, and the Japanese space agency. On board the International Space Station, we’re conducting a set of tests that are showing some really promising results,” he added. He didn’t go into detail about the experiments.
“We can imagine cooperating with China on this initiative until China establishes its space station,” he said. China expects to deploy the space station’s central module as soon as this month. “All solutions are on the table for us, and we are evaluating them all.”