Russia and China have signed an agreement to collaborate on the construction of an International Lunar Research Station (ILRS) on the Moon's south pole.
The Memorandum of Understanding stated that China National Space Administration (CNSA) and Russia's State Space Corporation (Roscosmos) would work together to consult, construct, operate, and promote the ILRS as a comprehensive scientific experiment base.
The two countries promised to share knowledge and tools, and the document said the station would be open to all "interested countries" engaged in science research and peaceful space exploration.
Researchers expect to find that the Moon's south pole has 180 consecutive days of light, which is convenient for those who may end up staying long term to carry out the scientific research. Potentially, the sunlight could also be harvested to power equipment.
While the south pole makes for a difficult landing spot, it is predicted to have better environmental conditions than other locations, said Wu Weiren, the chief designer of China's Lunar Exploration Program, in a news article on the government's website.
It is also, notably, the most most thoroughly (robotically) investigated region on the Moon.
It is not yet decided if the ILRS will be located on the Moon's surface or in orbit.
The Chinese Lunar Exploration Program has four stages, of which three have almost been completed: orbiting the Moon in 2007 and 2010, soft landing and deploying a rover in 2013 and 2019, and retrieval of lunar samples in late 2020.
A final phase-three mission with Chang'e 6 is slated to collect a south pole lunar sample in 2023 or 2024.
For phase four, Chang'e 7 is planned in 2024 to create a detailed survey of the Moon's south pole resources and test key technologies needed for the ILRS build. Chang'e 8, which is estimated to launch in 2027, will verify the resources and may include landers, rovers, and 3D equipment to test-build the base. ®