Over two months after a breakdown in relations with the US, Russia is looking toward China for cooperation in manned space missions. The Russian space agency, Roscosmos, has said that it is exploring the option of cooperating with Beijing on manned missions as the two countries are on course to ready space stations in zero gravity.
“Considering the strategic nature of partnership relations between Russia and China, we will, undoubtedly, develop cooperation with Chinese partners in the field of manned cosmonautics,” Roscosmos said in a statement. The development was also confirmed by Russian news agency TASS, which reported that the two countries are looking toward cooperation.
Roscosmos Director General Dmitry Rogozin, who has been attacking the US over sanctions, has told the China Global Television Network (CGTN) that he looks forward to more space collaborations with China on projects such as building new modules on China’s space station.
“Cooperation with the Chinese side in this sphere has been organized within the framework of the joint Russian-Chinese commission for cooperation in manned cosmonautic,” Roscosmos said.
China has already hinted that it is open to launching foreign astronauts to its under-construction space station. Zhou Jianping, the chief designer of China’s manned space programme said in March, “We would actively promote foreign astronauts’ participation in the work in China’s space station, which is an important part of international cooperation. You look forward to it, I look forward to it too.”
Amid the ongoing rift between the US, Russia, and Europe, China aims to complete the construction of its Space Station by the end of this year. Beijing has already planned six launches to Tiangong to add two science modules to the in-orbit Tianhe core module. The launches also include two cargo spacecraft and two crewed missions.
The relations between the US, Europe, and Russia soured after Moscow invaded Ukraine. Several countries, including the US, broke relations with Russia, imposing harsh sanctions aimed at stopping its military modernisation and space programme.
Apart from manned missions, Russia is already engaged with China on a five-year space cooperation program for 2023-2028. Moscow had in 2021 signed an agreement to develop a base on the Moon as countries aim to increase their presence on the lunar surface.
According to the roadmap, the stations will first operate autonomously before they are habituated by crewed missions in the future. While preliminary exploratory missions are likely to begin by the end of this year, construction for the lunar base will begin as early as 2025.