As we know, China and Russia collaborated in March 2021 to develop a lunar base together under the project known as the International Lunar Research Station (ILRS) program. However, in a recent press release, it has been reported that China has disregarded this collaboration with Russia and announced that it is looking for a new international partner for this project. The announcement was made at the International Astronautical Congress (IAC), recently held in Paris. Most of us might find it unexpected, but we can surely anticipate that there have been some issues going on between the two countries that resulted in this decision.
Coupled with this, a chief Chinese space representative has issued a statement in a press conference “while omitting mention of main partner Russia,” as reported by SpaceNews. The representative specifically mentioned that they are open to collaborating with international partners for their Chang’e-7 lander and orbiter mission. However, we can anticipate that there will be far-reaching consequences on both sides of the splitting up of this alliance. Similarly, the China National Space Administration (CNSA) revealed that it is now in the “reconnaissance” phase and is exploring suitable international partners for its project. While the crewed mission to the moon is anticipated to take place by mid-2030.
As per the senior research fellow Marco Aliberti from the European Space Policy Institute, “Be it in space or elsewhere, China has a very realistic view of Russia, and partnering with Moscow has never been Beijing’s most preferred outcome, for the two countries are not natural partners. In moving forward, Beijing now seems to be increasingly confronted with a difficult dilemma: whether to turn the relationship into a real partnership or drop it altogether.”
On the other hand, the reports of SpaceNews reveal that China eliminated Russia from this space project because of its invasion of Ukraine, but we can’t say this with certainty as there might be some other factors as well. The only thing we know is that this collaboration between Russia and China on their Chang’e-7 lander and orbiter mission gained a lot of attention from the authorities. Let’s see how this recent announcement will impact both countries.