Russia and China Want to Build a Base on the Moon Together

Russia and China have both expressed interest in building a base on the moon, and Moscow's space chief said the two may pool their resources to make the ambitious project a reality.

Dmitry Rogozin, director general of Russia's Roscosmos State Space Corp. and the former deputy defense minister, said that the Russian and Chinese space programs were considering working jointly to establish a lunar station. As Russia prepares to meet its 2021 deadline for the country's first unmanned lunar mission, a growing relationship with China has presented new opportunities as Moscow's ties to the U.S. continue to worsen.

"China is a serious partner. I don't rule out that as soon as we agree on the outlines of our lunar program with the Americans, it is our manned lunar program. The formation of a research station on the moon's surface is likely to be carried out with our Chinese partners. They can be equal partners already in the coming years," Rogozin told Channel One Russia, according to the state-run Tass news agency.

"We plan to land on the moon. A drill will be activated to collect lunar soil samples that will be taken to Earth," he added.

Journalists watch a mock walk on Mars of volunteers of the Mars500 experiment, taikonaut Van Yue of China and cosmonaut Alexander Smoleyevsky of Russia, at the Korolev Space Mission Control Center outside Moscow on February 18, 2011. The two countries have stepped up bilateral cooperation in recent years, including in scientific fields. NATALIA KOLESNIKOVA/AFP/Getty Images

Much of the world's initial extraterrestrial achievements came as a result of the so-called space race between two superpowers competing as part of the larger Cold War. While the Soviet Union pioneered early space exploration with achievements such as the first satellite, the first images of the dark side of the moon and the first human spaceflight, the U.S. remains the only country to have conducted a manned lunar mission, of which it has carried out several, the last being in 1972.

As the international bout between Moscow and Washington played out, Beijing sought to catch up with the leading powers. But it was not until 2013 that China followed Russia and the U.S. to become the third country to successfully conduct a "soft landing" on the moon. China has since announced a mission to send a probe to the dark side of the moon and create a new space station. China maintained its own, mostly unmanned space station, Tiangong-1, which was launched in 2011 before later expiring and falling to Earth in a dramatic turn of events this past April.

The only space station currently in orbit is the International Space Station, which is largely operated by the U.S. and Russia. With Washington and Moscow reigniting geopolitical tensions reminiscent of the Cold War, however, their feud appears to have also exceeded planetary boundaries. Deputy Prime Minister Yury Borisov has suggested his country may opt not to renew its contract with NASA to transport U.S. astronauts to the station.

Earlier this month, Rogozin said a hole that appeared in the station's side may have the result of "deliberate interference in space," suggesting sabotage. Both NASA and Roscosmos have since said they would forgo "preliminary conclusions and providing any explanations" until a full investigation was conducted.

President Donald Trump holds up an executive order that he signed to establish a U.S. space force during a White House meeting of the National Space Council on June 18. The U.S. has accused Russia and China of militarizing space, a charge they both deny. Alex Wong/Getty Images

The U.S. has accused Russia and China of militarizing space through anti-satellite development and other weaponry, prompting President Donald Trump to announce in June that he was establishing a space force as the sixth branch of the military. Russia and China have condemned the move, accusing the U.S. of being stuck in a Cold War mindset and unnecessarily risking a conflict in space.

Countering what they perceive as U.S. hegemony across the world and beyond, Russia and China have boosted bilateral cooperation in defense, politics, economics and other fields, including science. In July, Rogozin first announced that the two countries were considering working together to explore the moon and potentially travel deeper into space as well.