HELSINKI — China has laid out its pathway for robotic and crewed lunar and deep space exploration, with a number of missions building towards a permanent moon base.
Three upcoming robotic missions will set in place landers, orbiters, relay satellites and test key technologies needed to begin construction of China’s International Lunar Research Station (ILRS) in the 2030s. .
While China is now planning a short-term crewed lunar landing mission before the end of the decade, ILRS will initially be a robotic base that will be permanently habitable after 2035.
Chang’e-6, a backup to the successful 2020 Chang’e-5 lunar sample return, will attempt to collect up to two kilograms of material from the South Pole-Aitken Basin on the lunar far side in 2026.
A new lunar relay satellite will also be launched to facilitate communications with missions targeting the vicinity of the south pole of the moon.
Petersburg, Russia, in June 2021, the plan envisions five missions named ILRS-1 through 5 focusing respectively on energy and communications, research and exploration facilities, in-situ resource utilization, general technologies and astronomy capabilities.
China declared its openness to international partnerships for ILRS and deep space missions at the International Astronautical Congress (IAC) in Paris in September, but Russia was not mentioned in the plans. .