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China announces plans for manned Moon base as new space race surges forward

Already Chinese scientists are planning a series of robotic missions, the Chang’e series, during the 2020s and into the 2030s. The hope is this will set the stage for China to establish a manned research base on the lunar south pole.

According to SpaceNews Beijing hopes to achieve this by 2036-45.

However China is reportedly keen to work with other countries on its Moon base and both the Russians and Europeans are said to be interested.

The new Chinese project has been named the International Lunar Research Station (ILRS).

Earlier this year ILRS employees explained their plans during a presentation to the Scientific and Technical Subcommittee of the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS).

China is working on plans for a manned Moon base (Image: GETTY)

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Humans first landed on the Moon in 1969 (Image: GETTY)

One explained their objective is the “construction and operation of humanity’s first sharing platform in the lunar south pole, supporting long-term, large-scale scientific exploration, technical experiments and development and utilization of lunar resources”.

China is also working towards launching Chang’e-6, Chang’e-7 and Chang’e 8, a series of robotic missions targeting the Moon.

Recently Dmitry Rogozin, chief of Russia’s Roscosmos space agency, suggested his country could build a joint Moon base with China.

Speaking to the Solovyev LIVE Youtube channel he said: “Recently we have agreed that we will probably research the Moon and build a Moon research base together, Russia and China.”

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A Chinese rocket heading for space earlier this year (Image: GETTY)

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Mr Rogozin also praised China’s space agency as “they continue working, continue testing their resolve, they stick to their guns”.

The European Space Agency (ESA), which the UK forms part of, is also reported to be interested in collaborating with the Chinese.

Speaking to SpaceNews Karl Bergquist, the ESA’s international relations administrator, said: “At ESA we are following the Chinese lunar exploration plans very closely in order to see where our respective programmatic interest could meet, primarily the CE-6, -7 and -8 missions but also the ILRS initiative.”

Jan Woerner, the German Director General of the ESA, has previously suggested different countries could collaborate to create a “Moon village”.

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Chinese children visit a mock-up Mars base (Image: GETTY)

A mock-up Chinese Mars base in the Gobi desert (Image: GETTY)

It is expected China will launch the Chang’e-5 lunar return mission towards the end of this year.

If this is successful the Chang’e-6 project is projected to target the moon’s south pole sometime around 2023-4.

Earlier this year China tested the prototype of its new crewed spacecraft using a Long March 5B rocket.

The Trump administration has set NASA a target to return humans to the Moon in 2024.

No human has set foot on the Moon since NASA’s Apollo 17 mission in December 1972.

If NASA is successful in returning humans to the Moon in 2024 it plans to move onto Mars in the early 2030s.

The agency is also working on its own plans to establish a permanent Moon base.

However speaking to Express.co.uk Christopher Wanjek, author of ‘Spacefarers: How Humans Will Settle the Moon, Mars, and Beyond’, expressed scepticism about this timetable.

NASA plans to return humans to the Moon for 2024 (Image: GETTY)

He said: “This plan to get humans back to the Moon by 2024 is ill-fated.

“It was a bad idea to begin with and now with the pandemic it’s certainly not going to happen.

“What you want to do, and what NASA was planning on doing, is slowly get back there by setting up an infrastructure.

“Send some robots, map out the area, lay down some infrastructure.”

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