China and Russia will jointly build an international lunar base station that will orbit the moon’s surface, according to Russia’s Roscosmos space agency.
The ‘International Lunar Space Station’ will be a complex of facilities on the lunar surface and in a close orbit dedicated to lunar research and designed to conduct a variety of experiments, according to The Verge.
After months of negotiations, China
and Russia will draw up a roadmap for progression and have invited the space
community as a whole to participate.
The statement put out by Russia’s space agency, Roscosmos, said that the International Lunar Space Station said the base will be designed for “long-term unmanned operations” but may possibly become a long-term residence for international astronauts.
The dangers posed to astronauts dwelling on the surface of the moon are significant.
The radiation levels on the surface of the moon are 1 000-2 000 times more potent than that experienced on earth and two and a half times the level experienced by International Space Station (ISS) astronauts, said Robert F. Wimmer-Schweingruber, of Kiel University and co-lead scientist on China’s Chang’e 4 lunar study.
The extreme radiation levels on
the moon are due to an extremely weak magnetic field which provides little
protection from the cosmic rays and powerful neutrons constantly bombarding the
George Ho, a heliophysicist at John Hopkins, believes we can use the sun to our advantage. The sun emits powerful radiation of its own and, in ideal circumstances, can act as a solar shield, deflecting a portion of harmful radiation away from astronauts working on the moon.
The scientific community agrees that initial manned operations on a lunar base will be brief, a few weeks at most, because of the threat posed by radiation.
Lunar exploration advocates, such
as the University of Notre Dame’s Clive Neal, believe that creating a habitable
living environment on the moon can only happen when the international space
community works together. Neal, who has been advocating missions such as the
joint endeavour between Russia and China, said large projects like theirs only
come together through cooperation and not competition.
China also held talks with France’s space agency, CNES, early in March. CNES chief, Jean-Yves Le Gall, and Zhang Kejian discussed cooperation on climate science and the possibility of collaborating on lunar or mars-related projects.