Russia and China have presented a plan to build the joint International Lunar Research Station (ILRS). The proposed lunar base is intended to be ready for crewed visits by 2036 and is unrelated to the American-led Artemis programme, which has pledged to land “the first woman and person of color” on the moon by 2024, although that date seems increasingly unlikely.
Like Artemis, the ILRS is open to collaborating with other countries, and on 16 June the China National Space Administration and Russia’s state space corporation, Roscosmos, published a partnership guide.
The development of ILRS is split into three phases. Reconnaissance is taking place now with missions such as Chang’e-5, which returned lunar rock samples to the Earth on 16 December 2020, and future Chinese and Russian missions. One or more sites will be chosen in the coming years and then the construction phase will begin. This will last almost a decade, with cargo and equipment being transported to the lunar surface via uncrewed ships.
Finally, in 2036, human visitors will arrive to begin scientific work and further building of the base. Like the Artemis programme, the plan will require a sustained injection of cash and political will over many years if it is to succeed.