A potential space collaboration between China and the European Space Agency is looking bright. A senior official of the Chinese space agency has confirmed the bilateral talks.
According to Tian Yulong, China space agency's secretary general, the talks were focused on the lunar base.
The talks were also confirmed by Pal Hvistendahl, a spokesman for the ESA. Besides the human outpost on the moon, other joint ventures are also in the pipeline, according to the spokesman.
China has already announced that it is planning to reach the darker side of the moon by 2018 and there will be a Mars mission by 2020.
"The Chinese have a very ambitious moon program already in place," Hvistendahl said and added that the space race of the '60s is off now.
To explore space for peaceful purposes, international cooperation is essential, the spokesman added.
ESA's Moon Village A Launch Pad To Mars Mission
Meanwhile, ESA director general Johann-Dietrich Woerner mentioned the proposed "Moon Village" and said it would be an international launching pad for future missions to Mars and serve as a tool to develop space tourism and lunar mining.
The cooperation with ESA on the moon village will be beneficial for China in accomplishing the space goals.
ESA Cooperation As Fillip to Chinese Programs
China has been trying to make rapid strides in space programs the past few years. The first unmanned cargo spacecraft of China was recently launched to the Tiangong-2 unmanned space station to prepare the station for advanced programs and trials of docking and detaching from the station.
China sent its first man into space in 2003. But that was more than 40 years after a Russian cosmonaut hit the orbit.
That is why there is a perception that China has been a laggard in space programs compared with big powers like the United States or Russia. Also, China cannot have space collaboration with the United States as space cooperation with China has been excluded by the latter under a law passed in 2011. China was also kept out of the International Space Station over security concerns.
NASA Plan For Space Station That Orbits Moon
Meanwhile, NASA is also going ahead with its plans to construct a space station at the lunar orbit and has roped in international partners. The science station will fill the vacuum caused by the retirement of the International Space Station in the 2020s.
The size will be a fraction of the ISS. Yet the new station with its location at the cis-lunar orbit will be giving a foothold for all human missions to asteroids, the moon, and Mars. The egg-shaped orbit will be away by 1,500 km to 70,000 km (930 miles to 44,000 miles) from the moon.
The design of the station has been under progress and the first mission may be launched in 2023. The plan is to position a robotic spacecraft called Power and Propulsion Bus or PPB in the orbit around the moon.
That will be followed by the addition of a pair of modules weighing less than 10 tons each to be bolted to the PPB. The new structure can house four astronauts for 90 days. The space facility will also get a Russian-built airlock module in the mid-2020s to enable the crew to walk outside the space home.
Both modules will be backed with four docking ports with mutual connections so that they can receive visiting spacecraft.
The advantage of choosing cis-lunar space is that it is not very congested compared with Earth orbit and designers can afford thinner walls around the space station.