China and Europe are teaming up to erect a base on the moon together. Described as a “moon village”, the base would be used as a potential launching pad for future missions to Mars, for lunar mining activities, and for space tourism.
The secretary general for the China National Space Administration (CNSA), Tian Yulong, first disclosed the talks to Chinese state media. The words were then confirmed by Pal Hvistendahl, a spokesman for the 22-member European Space Agency (ESA), according to reporting by the Associated Press.
“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.”
The plans are just another milestone for China as they continue aggressively ramping up their nascent space program aggressively. Later this year, China plans to send the lunar probe Chang’e-5 to the moon later this year to collect rock and soil samples. Then next year, they plan to send another probe to the far side of the moon for mineral samples.
There’s no word yet on when the moon village will be erected but China is already working on a rocket that could get an astronaut to the moon by the mid-2030s.
We have yet to hear from the U.S. on whether they plan to join the collaborative effort. But based on past events, we can probably guess we won’t witness NASA asking for an invite anytime soon. According to Quartz, the Obama Administration previously declined to partner with the European Space Agency to build the moon village.
And our relationship with China has fared somewhat frostier. In 2011, the U.S. prohibited China’s astronauts from visiting the International Space Station amid security concerns, a move that prompted China to build their own. They already have a space lab in orbit, the Tiangong-2. And they plan to construct a full-fledged space station beginning in 2019.