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Chinese Lunar Base

The overall layout of China Lunar Exploration Program (CLEP) features three major stages – The first focuses on robotic exploration, the second manned landing, and the third on human residence. The first stage of CLEP (from 2004 till 2020), named Chang’e Program after a legendary fairy dwelling on the Moon in Chinese mythology, is designed revolving robotic exploration. In the next stage spanning the period from 2021 to 2035, the country would continue on the robotic exploration, and meanwhile make breakthroughs in related technical issues aimed at manned lunar exploration. The third stage (from 2036 to 2045) would be focused on both robotic and manned lunar exploration, breaking through in energy, transport, communication, operation and life support systems for manned exploration.

Missions fitted in the future timetable of CLEP include the International Lunar Research Station (ILRS) situated on the South Pole of the Moon. To be jointly designed and built via close teamwork of Chinese, European and Russian scientists and S&T managers, this infrastructure could embody a new mode of international cooperation under the framework of CLEP. Initiated by China in 2016, the idea of ILRS echoed the concept of “Lunar Village” proposed earlier by the European Space Agency (ESA), and was followed by a plan conceived by the Russian Federal Space Agency (RSA) to build a lunar base beyond 2030. According to PEI, the above-mentioned three parties have arrived at a preliminary agreement to jointly formulate the layout of ILRS. Based on effective communication with ESA, RSA and other international counterparts, CNSA formally announced the “Cooperation Initiatives for the ILRS.”

“The essential goal is to establish the first research platform and infrastructure on the Moon for humankind, via participation of multiple countries following a principle of ‘sufficient discussion, joint construction and international sharing’,” introduced WU Yanhua, Vice Director of CNSA. To meet this goal, the three parties will jointly set up an inter-governmental coordination committee in 2019, and recruit international forces to conduct research into related issues pertaining to the layout and construction of ILRS, with the objective to proposing a blueprint in two or three years.

"If the lunar research station project can be successfully implemented, China will not be far away from achieving manned landing on the moon," said Wu. He added that Chinese scientists and engineers are study ing how to land on the moon. According to Wu, China will consider landing on the south pole of the moon in the future, which is more complex but the environmental conditions are better. Once the landing is successful, construction of the lunar research station can be carried out gradually.

It will be a long-term lunar stay for Chinese astronauts, not short-term, said Wu. He noted that in order to achieve a manned landing on the moon, it is necessary to ensure that the probe and astronauts can land safely and accurately. In the 14th Five-Year Plan period (2021-2025), China will continue to promote the development of heavy launch vehicles and achieve breakthroughs in rocket body sizes and engine thrust to support deep space exploration, said Wu.

Russia, as a country with energy resources and its glorious past that once led the space race during the Cold War, is now likely to become a supporting role under China's expansion ambitions. The Russian astronauts have rich experience in conducting research on the International Space Station, which is exactly what China lacks. Although the space cooperation between China and Russia may "reshape the geopolitics of space exploration", the competition in lunar scientific exploration and related commercial development has long been a supporting role with Russia, which has led the space exploration program of the United States for a long time. The protagonists in the future competition will be the United States and China.

According to experts from the Chinese Academy of Sciences, according to theoretical predictions, only about 10 billion tons of water may be stored in the shadow area of the moon's south pole without sun exposure. There are deep impact craters near the south pole of the moon. Based on current detection and theoretical research, astronomers speculate that a large amount of water ice is likely to be enriched in these impact craters at the south pole of the moon.

Chang'e-7 will also carry out detailed surveys of lunar antarctic resources, comprehensively surveying the lunar antarctic topography, material composition, and space environment. At present, all countries are paying close attention to the deployment of relevant detections in order to study the distribution of lunar water ice in more detail. Since the 1990s, some international detectors have successively found evidence of water ice in the lunar soil. In recent years, lunar water ice has been a hot spot in various countries.

Why is the detection of lunar water so important? Because the water on the moon itself is a precious and important resource. Zhao Chen, the model director of the 805 Institute of the Eighth Academy of Aerospace Engineering, said that transporting water from the earth to the moon is very expensive. The first goal is to verify whether there is a large amount of water on the moon through detection and verification. If it does exist, then proceed to the second step, studying on-site water extraction and using lunar water. For example, it can be further decomposed into fuel and provide energy for the subsequent development and utilization of lunar resources.

"The moon will become a natural'gas station' and a'springboard' towards deep space. From the moon to Mars, and even other stars, the boundaries of human exploration will continue to expand." said Sun Weigang, a senior expert at the Chinese Academy of Astronautics.

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Page last modified: 24-04-2021 17:21:24 ZULU