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China, Azerbaijan ink agreements on international lunar research station program

China, Azerbaijan

Azerbaijan joined China’s International Lunar Research Station (ILRS) program, the China National Space Administration (CNSA) announced on its official website on Monday, according to China Global Television Network (CGTN).

Space agencies of China and Azerbaijan signed a joint statement on cooperation on the ILRS program during the 74th International Astronautical Congress held in Baku, Azerbaijan from October 2 to 6.

According to the joint statement, the two sides will carry out extensive cooperation in the demonstration, implementation, operation and application of the program, including mounting scientific instruments, providing training to personnel and conducting scientific and technological experiments.

The signing of the joint statement is of great significance to promoting the scientific and technological progress, advancing economic and social development, and consolidating cooperative relations between the two countries, said the CNSA.

The ILRS program, jointly initiated by China and Russia in 2021, aims to build a lunar base and carry out lunar research and exploration.

Before Azerbaijan, several countries, organizations and institutions joined the program, including Pakistan, the United Arab Emirates, the Asia-Pacific Space Cooperation Organization, South Africa and Swiss company Nano-SPACE, according to the Deep Space Exploration Laboratory under the CNSA.

China has unveiled its plan for the construction of the ILRS earlier, with the lunar station carried out in three phases.

The basic model of the lunar station is expected to be completed by 2028 and used to conduct lunar environment exploration and resource utilization verification.

It is set to undergo improvements by 2040, when scientists will make new discoveries about the sun, Earth, moon and space environment and a satellite constellation be developed to provide services for manned lunar landings and deep space exploration.

After that, the base will be upgraded from a scientific research-oriented experimental station to an application-oriented and multifunctional one.

During the process, China’s Chang’e-6, -7 and -8 lunar probes will be launched.

The Chang’e-6 lunar probe will be launched around 2024 to collect samples in the South Pole-Aitken Basin on the far side of the moon.

The Chang’e-7 probe will be sent around 2026 to implement resource exploration of the lunar south pole and the Chang’e-8 around 2028 to conduct experiments on lunar resource utilization and to build the basic model of the lunar station, according to the CNSA.

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