Humanity needs to work together, not create barriers in space exploration: Moon Village Association president

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A photo taken on January 31, 2023 shows a model of Chang'e-5 on display at the Shanghai Astronomical Museum. Photo: VCG

A photo taken on January 31, 2023 shows a model of Chang’e-5 on display at the Shanghai Astronomical Museum. Photo: VCG

Editor’s Note:

China has made remarkable achievements in space and lunar exploration in recent years through its best products such as the Tiangong space station and the lunar rover Juni-2. China is also actively engaged in international cooperation, committing to open up China’s Space Station (CSS) to all United Nations (UN) member states, and nine projects from 17 countries have been implemented in China. selected as the first batch of scientific experiments that Amamiya. What are some of the highlights of China’s space and lunar exploration, along with its efforts to promote international cooperation in the view of international scientists? Global Times reporter Huang Lanlan (GT) has an exclusive interview with Senior Space Policy Advisor Giuseppe Reibaldi (Reibaldi) on these issues. Giuseppe Reibaldi is President and Founder of the Moon He Village Association (MVA) and Executive Director of the Global He Expert Group on Sustainable Moon Activities. .

Giuseppe Raybaldi, President of the Moon Village Association (Photo courtesy of Raybaldo)

Giuseppe Raybaldi, President of the Moon Village Association (Photo courtesy of Raybaldo)

GT: In November 2022, six Taiko astronauts aboard the Shenzhou 14 and Shenzhou 15 spacecraft successfully met at China’s Tiangong space station. What are your thoughts on China’s construction of a space station and its recent efforts in space exploration?


China’s Space Station (CSS) can be considered a second generation station as it includes lessons learned from the International Space Station (ISS). CSS is compact, which makes it extensible yet efficient to assemble and manipulate. Since becoming the world’s first to land on the far side of the moon and the world’s second to use a Mars lander, China has made great strides in space exploration and many other areas, and this achieved in the last ten years.

GT: You have been with ESA for 35 years and have extensive hands-on experience in projects related to the International Space Station. What do you think are the characteristics and advantages of the small-scale CSS and the large-scale but early-established ISS in terms of technology and application?

Reibaldi: Considering there’s about a 20-year difference between the development of CSS and ISS, the technology available on CSS is at the leading edge of infrastructure, and the former was launched later, so it’s likely less on payload . infrastructure. Some of the ISS payloads were developed independently from the crew, so the interface between the payload and the crew may differ.

Another difference is the crew time available for experiments, as the ISS is larger and requires more time for maintenance. CSS is smaller and more sophisticated, so it takes less time. This information is good to know as it will encourage more payload proposals from the global community.

GT: Recently, the European Space Agency (ESA) said it had “no budgetary capacity or political intent to send astronauts to the Chinese space station.” What do you see as the prospects for cooperation between Europe and China in space? What are the main challenges?

Raybaldi: I believe that cooperation in space between China and Europe will follow the status of international relations. Until it stabilizes, I think it will be difficult. Space, on the other hand, is an area that lends itself well to international collaboration, and there may be some form of coordination between different scientific programs.

GT: China is moving forward with the fourth phase of its lunar exploration program and is reportedly working on several key technologies for a manned lunar landing. What are your comments on China’s achievements so far in the area of ​​lunar exploration? What are your hopes for China’s future manned lunar landings?

Raybaldi: China has achieved extraordinary results in the last decade with its latest lunar mission, being the first country in the world to soft-land a spacecraft on the far side of the moon, opening a new field of research and philosophy to mankind. is being cut open.

My hope for a manned moon landing is that it will happen because China has all the key technology for this mission, except for the large launcher that needs to be developed. With this in mind, there are multiple stakeholders operating on/around the moon, and it is imperative that a global cooperation mechanism be agreed at the UN level for lunar surface activities.

Visitors look at lunar soil samples brought back by China's Chang'e-5 spacecraft on display at the China Space Museum in the Chinese capital, Beijing, November 16, 2022. Photo: VCG

Visitors look at lunar soil samples brought back by China’s Chang’e-5 spacecraft on display at the China Space Museum in the Chinese capital, Beijing, November 16, 2022. Photo: VCG

GT: The International Lunar Research Station (ILRS) is a space project jointly proposed by the Chinese and Russian national space agencies, with the goal of being operational by 2035. What technical and collaborative challenges do you think will be necessary to build the station? Will they be overcome?


From a technical perspective, it will be important to develop large-scale automation and interoperability of ILRS components for joint operation. It is also important that ILRS is part of peaceful global lunar exploration and utilization, or Moon Village. As noted above, we need to establish an agreement as soon as possible on how we can work together on the Moon at the UN level. There are specific risks of accidents associated with some missions to the moon without an agreed coordination mechanism.

GT: ILRS is seen as an effort by China and Russia to counter the Artemis program of the United States and its allies. What are your thoughts on this statement? Does Artemis’ exclusion of China and Russia raise concerns about the potential for a zero-sum game in lunar exploration applications?

Reibaldi: I think Artemis and ILSR should not be seen as competing, they should be part of Moon Village and they should cooperate with each other. The moon is a difficult place to live and work in, and it is clear that the rules of cooperation must be agreed upon soon. The moon is the next big leap for humanity, and we need to work together, not create barriers. The moon is a laboratory for peace and nations need to establish international coordination mechanisms.

GT: How can MVA support and support ILRS and other forms of international cooperation in lunar exploration? Are there short-term plans to support international cooperation in space?

Reibaldi: MVA is a platform created in 2017 to facilitate global cooperation to implement the concept of the Moon Village, a multi-stakeholder community engaged in the peaceful exploration and use of the Moon.

To this end, the MVA established the Global Expert Group on Sustainable Lunar Activities (GEGSLA) in 2021 to define specific mechanisms for cooperation on lunar activities. The group was made up of over 40 countries, including representatives from industry, space agencies/governments, academia, and international organizations. This group also included a powerful Chinese delegation.

The result of GEGSLA is a document called “Recommended Framework and Key Elements for Peaceful and Sustainable Lunar Activities”. The document was recently submitted to the United Nations and marks the beginning of multilateral discussions on the issue of lunar coordination.

Given the urgency of coordinating lunar surface activities, I hope that the Member States of the United Nations will establish an International Coordination Group on Lunar Surface Operations similar to that created for the Global Navigation System. is. This group can agree on information exchange, safe zone definition/implementation, lunar debris mitigation, interoperability, etc.

GT: What are your hopes for future international cooperation in space exploration? How do you expect China to contribute to international cooperation in this area?

Reybaldi: For the future of international cooperation, we need it, as the ISS program shows. The operation is progressing normally even in the current complicated political climate.

In addition, we will be traveling from Earth, and we will need more and more cooperation. As for China’s contribution, it is very important as it develops major space infrastructure on the moon and elsewhere. Therefore, as far as CSS is concerned, these aspects should be open to international cooperation. Chinese shows like the fact that Yutu 2 is still active on the far side of the moon are very exciting for the younger generation and the general public.

China needs outreach activities to inform the world about its activities and should partner with other countries and NGOs for this purpose. The moon is a laboratory of science as well as a laboratory of peace, but it requires the efforts of each country.

A sky watcher takes pictures of the Chinese space station orbiting the moon in Suzhou, eastern China's Jiangsu province, on January 6, 2023. Photo: VCG

A sky watcher takes pictures of the Chinese space station orbiting the moon in Suzhou, eastern China’s Jiangsu province, on January 6, 2023. Photo: VCG


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