China plans space launch station in Pakistan and “town” on the Moon

The landing site of China’s first landing on the Moon, made by the Chang’e-3 lander in 2013. (Nasa/Public Domain)
China’s five-year plan for the development of its space industry will include a satellite launch centre in Pakistan and steps to develop an inhabitable Moon base by 2035. 

The white paper, titled “China’s Space Programme: A 2021 Perspective” was published by the State Council on Friday.

It said that China would “give priority to developing communications satellites for Pakistan and will cooperate on the construction of the Pakistan Space Centre”, and outlined a programme to develop the International Lunar Research Station (ILRS), reports Indian broadcaster NDTV.

Islamabad announced its ambitions to build the centre back in 2018, with the aim of developing a domestic industry to develop, manufacture and launch satellites. The same year, China helped Pakistan to launch two observation satellites to monitor progress on the China–Pakistan Economic Corridor, both of which were made by China.

The following year Pakistan’s Space and Upper Atmosphere Research Commission signed an exploration agreement with China’s Ministry of Aerospace Industry, which was described at the time as “ushering in a new era of collaboration in space science”.

China has provided satellite launching services for many countries and has technology cooperation agreements with countries, including Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Argentina, Pakistan and Nigeria, the white paper said.

The country’s most ambitious project, however, is the ILRS, which the Global Times newspaper described as “town-like”. Speaking at the launch of the white paper, Wu Yanhua, the deputy head of China’s National Space Administration, said the base was expected to become operational by 2035.

He said: “The governments of China and Russia are working closely on the ILRS agreements and have basically reached a consensus, and the agreement will hopefully be signed later this year. After that, a joint declaration on the project will be announced to the world by the national space agencies of the two countries.”

He added that other countries were welcome to join the project.

According to Wu, the ILRS will be able to receive visitors from Earth on scientific missions, and would carry out “scientific expeditions on the Moon”.

The white paper said China would carry out more space science exploration in the next five years and continue with the research and development of programmes such as the satellite for space gravitational wave detection and a space-based solar observatory.

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