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China proposes building lunar research station with partners

By ZHAO LEI in Hefei | China Daily | Updated: 2023-04-26 09:18


Mega project to share scientific advances with host of multinational stakeholders

China is proposing to establish a multinational organization to take charge of the construction and operation of the International Lunar Research Station, an ambitious venture led by China.

Wu Weiren, an academician at the Chinese Academy of Engineering and the chief planner of the country's lunar programs, said on Tuesday in Hefei, Anhui province, that the organization will be responsible for planning, building and running the lunar outpost and will share scientific findings with all member states.

The headquarters of the mega science project will consist of five centers in charge of design and simulation, operation and maintenance, data processing, sample storage and research, and international exchange and training, according to the scientist.

Founding members will have preferential rights and better access to the station's achievements, he added.

Wu said the first version of the International Lunar Research Station will consist of components of China's Chang'e 7 and Chang'e 8 robotic missions — orbiters, landers, rovers and a flyby craft as well as a relay satellite.

Both the Chang'e 7 and Chang'e 8 probes are designed to land on the moon's south pole. Chang'e 7 is scheduled to set out around 2026 while Chang'e 8 will join it around 2028.

In the long run, there will be more spacecraft deployed on the south pole to bring more infrastructure to the science outpost. The station will utilize robotics most of the time but it will also be capable of accommodating astronauts for short stays, according to him.

Wu said there are three major reasons why China wants to intensify its lunar exploration efforts.

"The moon is an important clue to uncovering the secrets behind the origins of the universe, the solar system and terrestrial life. The Earth's natural satellite will become a 'transfer station' for humans to fly beyond it to other celestial bodies and the resources on it will be very meaningful to mankind's sustainable development," he explained.

Liu Jizhong, a leading scientist in China's deep-space exploration programs, said the lunar station will act as an international platform for moon-based scientific experiments and mineral exploitation. It will help to revolutionize technologies pertaining to the flight, energy, communication, navigation and remote control of man-made objects on extraterrestrial bodies, and will also lay a foundation for larger-scale exploration and development on the moon.

"Scientifically speaking, the station will help researchers to better study a host of questions like the creation and evolution of the moon, what happened in the early ages of the universe, and the ties between the Earth and the moon," Liu said.

The scientists made their remarks at the First International Deep Space Exploration Conference (Tiandu Forum) that opened in Hefei on Tuesday. The event was hosted by the Deep Space Exploration Laboratory with the participation of the Asia-Pacific Space Cooperation Organization, the China Space Foundation and the University of Science and Technology of China.

Hundreds of scientists, engineers and industry representatives from home and abroad are taking part in the two-day forum.

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