China and Europe are looking to build a human outpost on the moon.
Representatives of the Chinese and European space agencies have discussed collaborating on a moonbase and other possible joint endeavours, according to spokespeople and media reports.
The work was first revealed by Tian Yulong, the secretary general of China’s space agency, who told Chinese state media about the talks. Pal Hvistendahl, a spokesperson for the European Space Agency, confirmed the discussions.
“The Chinese have a very ambitious moon programme already in place,” Mr Hvistendahl said. “Space has changed since the space race of the Sixties. We recognise that to explore space for peaceful purposes, we do international cooperation.”
Johann-Dietrich Wörner, the director general of the 22-member ESA, has described its proposed “Moon Village” as a potential international launching pad for future missions to Mars and a chance to develop space tourism or even lunar mining.
China arrived relatively late to space travel but has ramped up its programme since its first manned spaceflight in 2003, more than 42 years after a Soviet cosmonaut became the first to reach orbit.
Last week, the China National Space Administration launched an unmanned spacecraft on a mission to dock with its currently unoccupied space station. It plans to launch a mission to collect samples from the moon by the end of this year and conduct the first mission to the moon’s far side to bring back mineral samples next year.
The ESA hopes to conduct a mission analysis on samples brought back by this year’s Chinese mission, known as Chang’e 5, and also have a European flying on the Chinese space station at some future date, Mr Hvistendahl said. Neither prospect has been finalised.
China was excluded from the International Space Station mainly due to US legislation barring such cooperation and concerns over the Chinese space programme's strong military connections.
Additional reporting by Associated Press
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