China and the European Space Agency (ESA) announced Wednesday a possible partnership to build a base on the moon.
Tian Yulong, the secretary general for China’s space agency, told state-run media the country was negotiating with Europe about jointly building a lunar base sometime in the 2030s. Pal Hvistendahl, a spokesman for ESA, confirmed the talks were taking place.
“The Chinese have a very ambitious moon program already in place,” Hvistendahl said. “Space has changed since the space race of the ’60s. We recognize that to explore space for peaceful purposes, we do international cooperation.”
China may join the ESA’s proposed “Moon Village” plan, which will mine minerals and provide a launch pad for future missions to Mars. The ESA also sees the moon base as a place for space tourism.
Johann-Dietrich Woerner, the director general of ESA, announced in March plans to build a permanent moon base in the 2030s. ESA will use huge 3D printers to build the base with the moon’s natural resources. Construction of the manned lunar base could begin within five years, Woerner said in a YouTube video.
Woerner claims the base would encourage international cooperation and be used to refuel spacecraft headed to Mars. NexGen Space, a NASA contractor, estimates a lunar refueling station would “reduce the cost to NASA of sending humans to Mars by as much as $US10 billion per year.”
Russia also plans to start construction of a permanent moon base by 2030, according to reports published last November by TASS, a state news agency.
Studies show the U.S. could return to the moon within five to seven years and build a permanent base after that.
Currently, NASA has no plans to return astronauts to the surface of the moon. President Donald Trump announced plans in February to return astronauts to the moon’s orbit in 2019.
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