China to work with ESA to build moon base for future missions

27 Apr 2017

Surface of the moon. Image: HelenField/Shutterstock

A partnership between Europe and China’s space agencies could pave the way for the first human settlement on the moon, simply called the ‘Moon Village’.

It has been almost 45 years since humankind set foot on the moon, but now the various national and private space agencies are eyeing Earth’s largest satellite with envious eyes.

China’s own space agency has been most vocal about its ambitions to send a crew of taikonauts – the Chinese term for astronauts – to the moon and beyond with its latest Long March 5 rocket.

Now, the superpower has announced that it is has opened discussions with the European Space Agency (ESA) to potentially help it realise its goal of establishing a moon base.

According to The Independent, the secretary general of the Chinese space agency, Tian Yulong, made a statement confirming China’s intentions of working with Europe not only on a moon base, but on other future endeavours.

Pal Hvistendahl, a spokesperson for the ESA, said this was a new era in space exploration.

“The Chinese have a very ambitious moon programme already in place,” he said.

“Space has changed since the space race of the ’60s. We recognise that to explore space for peaceful purposes, we do international cooperation.”

Despite arriving to space exploration relatively late compared with the US and Russia (particularly under the Soviet Union), China has ramped up its efforts over the past few decades to the point that it is now the most likely entity to land humans on the moon for the first time this century.

China’s big plans for space

Last year, China revealed plans to send a probe to explore the dark side of the moon in 2018, having sent its first lander back in 2013.

Aside from asserting itself as a modern superpower, China has made its intentions clear to establish a major presence on the moon in order to avail of the vast deposits of helium-3 there.

While nuclear fusion energy is still very experimental, helium-3 is believed to play a crucial role in its future, as well as powering spacecraft for future deep space missions.

This latest partnership with the ESA marks a changing attitude with other national space agencies. China previously fell out with NASA, resulting in its taikonauts not being allowed aboard the International Space Station.

China has, however, proceeded in building its own space lab called the Tiangong-2 in September of last year.

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic