The I newspaper reported last week that the Chinese were continuing their programme of sending probes to the Moon and Mars, with the unstated intention of landing a human on the Moon. Way back in 2006, they were negotiating with the Russians about forming a joint programme to explore the Moon. Spaceflight, in its edition for November that year, reported
Russia and China may conclude a Moon exploration agreement by the end of the year, according to Anatoly Perminov, head of the Russian Space Agency.
China has successfully launched into orbit two manned space vehicles. Its first manned flight three years ago made it the third country to launch a human being into space on its own, after Russia and the US.
“I can say that as a result of the Russian-Chinese space sub-commission’s work, our priority is a joint programme on Moon exploration,” said Perminov. “A number of contracts have been signed involving both Russian and Chinese enterprises.”
“We are currently working on the Moon as partners, and we have concluded that Russia and China have moved beyond their previous relationship, when China was a buyer and we [Russia] were a seller,” Perminov added.
He explained that the Russian-Chinese Space Exploration Commission will hold a concluding session in Beijing by the end of 2006, and that the Russian delegation will be led by Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov.
“The work of our sub-commission should create a favourable context for the visit of our [Russian] prime minister to China,” he said. “We have already adopted a cooperation programme with China for 2007-2009.”
Perminov also said that China may sign a contract to participate in a Russian project to bring soil back from one of Mars’ moons – Phobos.
“One of the directions we are working in is a flight to Phobos, with Chinese participation, which will bring back some of its soil to Earth.” Perminov said. “We plan to reach the final stage [of our talks] by the end of 2006, possibly even by the start of the sub-commission’s work under Prime Minister Fradkov.” (p. 405)
There was no mention of an agreement with Russia in the I’s article, so perhaps the pact has fallen apart. If it does exist, it would certainly show that the Russians are again a major competitor to the Americans in space, especially since the cancellation of the Space Shuttle.