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China and Russia outline long term plans for building joint lunar base

China/Russian Lunar base roadmap

The governments of China and Russia yesterday announced their long term roadmap for building a joint manned lunar base on the Moon, what they have labeled the International Lunar Research Station (ILRS).

The graphic to the right, rearranged by me from the PowerPoint slides released by the two governments, shows the overall plan.

The first phase, starting now and running through ’25, will involve six already planned unmanned missions by both countries, three each. Of the three Chinese unmanned missions, Chang’e-4, Chang’e-6, and Chang’e-7, the first is already operating on the Moon, as it includes the Yutu-2 rover. Based on China’s recent track record, it would be reasonable to expect the other two Chang’e missions to fly as planned.

Of the three Russian missions, Luna 25 is scheduled to launch later this year, making it the first all-Russian-built planetary mission in years and the first back to the Moon since the 1970s. The other two Russian probes are supposedly under development, but based on Russia’s recent track record in the past two decades for promised space projects, we have no guarantee they will fly as scheduled, or even fly at all.

The second phase, running from ’26 to ’35, will begin construction, though the details are vague.

The third phase, when China & Russia say they will begin full operations in ’36, is even more vague, merely stating the objective of human “lunar research and exploration”.

The pace matches well with the typically slow pace of these kind of government programs. It not only matches with the pace that China has shown in its entire manned program, with manned missions sometimes separated by years, it also matches the sluggish long term roadmap that NASA has put forth for its own Artemis program on the Moon. It also fits with Russia’s recent pattern, which is to repeatedly announce big projects and goals, with little actual execution to follow.

At first glance the plan suggests that we are in a new space race between the United States and its national partners in the capitalist west and the authoritarian governments of China and Russia. That may be so, but I think the real race will be between the government programs in China, Russia, and the U.S. and the efforts by private commercial companies aiming to make profits in space. And if you ask me to bet on who will get more accomplished faster for less money, I will hands down put my money on those private companies. The more profit they make, the faster they will push to move forward, and will quickly leave these sedate government programs in the dust.

Conscious Choice cover

Now available in hardback and paperback as well as ebook!


From the press release: In this ground-breaking new history of early America, historian Robert Zimmerman not only exposes the lie behind The New York Times 1619 Project that falsely claims slavery is central to the history of the United States, he also provides profound lessons about the nature of human societies, lessons important for Americans today as well as for all future settlers on Mars and elsewhere in space.

Conscious Choice: The origins of slavery in America and why it matters today and for our future in outer space, is a riveting page-turning story that documents how slavery slowly became pervasive in the southern British colonies of North America, colonies founded by a people and culture that not only did not allow slavery but in every way were hostile to the practice.  
Conscious Choice does more however. In telling the tragic history of the Virginia colony and the rise of slavery there, Zimmerman lays out the proper path for creating healthy societies in places like the Moon and Mars.


“Zimmerman’s ground-breaking history provides every future generation the basic framework for establishing new societies on other worlds. We would be wise to heed what he says.” —Robert Zubrin, founder of founder of the Mars Society.


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  • Mark

    NASA will try to avoid the public perception that it is being left in the dust, so what type of dance will it have with private commercial companies based in the US? On one hand bureaucrats will do what they do best and promote jobs programs and throw up roadblocks, but others in government will find it advantageous to jump on board the successes of private space. How much longer will SLS last? Will we have both lunar gateway and direct to moon missions? And overshadowing all will be SpaceX going to Mars. Should be interesting to see all this play out.

  • Jay

    I wonder what their lander will look like? Shall we take bets that it either looks like the Boeing entry or the Bezos design?

    Not much detail about the infrastructure for this system. Will they have their own TDRS system or use their future knock-off of Starlink for the communications backbone for this lunar base?

  • Jeff Wright

    SLS hydrogen/NTRs with Starship LOX make a good combination.

  • Dick Eagleson

    “SLS hydrogen/NTRs?” Don’t get cocky kid. Ask for a pony first.

    Seriously, neither SLS nor non-existant NTRs are going to play any consequential role – and perhaps no role at all – in settling and industrializing the Moon. That is going to be an all-Starship show until, and unless, Relativity Space can get its Terran-R into the mix. I don’t see anyone else, except perhaps the Indians, doing anything much on the Moon in either this decade or the next.

  • Star Bird

    So they can Spy on us from the Moon sounds like they want to be spying on us

  • wayne

    Minuteman III test Launch
    February 2021

  • Richard M

    Hello Dick,

    Let’s not forget Rocket Lab’s Neutron!

    (Granted, both Rocket Lab and Relativity seem to be aiming for a narrower market niche, and it’s mostly going to be in low earth orbit…and it is hard to know whether the niche can support both. But at least it’s nice to see launch companies seriously pursuing reusability in a hurry, now that Blue Origin has shown itself to be all graditim and no ferociter.)

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