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Russia isn’t keen on Artemis, sides with China for Moon exploration

Published Jul 20th, 2020 2:15PM EDT
nasa moon mission
Image: NASA

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  • Russia’s space agency has publicly stated it has no interest in participating in NASA’s Artemis missions that would eventually return humans to the lunar surface.
  • Roscosmos is instead siding with China, partnering up for future space exploration efforts.
  • NASA’s plans to return humans to the Moon by 2024 are in serious jeopardy.

NASA’s plan to return to the Moon by 2024

has been a long shot since the moment it was first announced. The space agency needs a whole lot of cash to make it happen and, at the moment, it doesn’t have the funds to cover it. Predictably, NASA is doing its best to rally support from its international allies to share in both the cost and the new discoveries that a crewed mission to the Moon could bring.

Since Russia has been a huge part of NASA’s work for decades, it seemed a given that the country would want to be involved in the Artemis missions as well. Now, as Ars Technica reports, it appears as though Russia wants nothing to do with NASA’s plans for a 2024 Moon mission and is instead getting comfy with China’s space group.

Dmitri Rogozin, head of Russian space agency Roscosmos, spared few words when addressing NASA’s Artemis missions. Put simply, he doesn’t think that NASA’s return to the Moon is really about science at all.

“It’s more of a political project for the US now,” Rogozin said in an interview with a Russian newspaper. “With the lunar project, we are seeing our US partners move away from the principles of cooperation and mutual support that have developed with cooperation on the ISS. They see their program not as international but as similar to NATO.”

Those are some harsh words, but they’re actually spot-on. NASA was ordered by the Trump administration to return to the Moon by 2024 even though the timeline was far from feasible. To its credit, NASA has been scrambling to piece together a crewed mission to the lunar surface that might have a slim chance of launching by 2024, but the situation is far from ideal.

When the mandate was handed to NASA, it looked a lot like Trump just wanted to put a feather in his own cap regarding a crewed return to the Moon. In the months since, NASA has tried to rally support from lawmakers but its budget still doesn’t have anywhere near the amount of muscle it will take for a 2024 Moon mission to become a reality.

Meanwhile, while China’s efforts to explore the lunar surface surging, Russia has clearly chosen a side, and it’s not with the United States. Rogozin even went so far as to call China “definitely our partner” for space science in the short term, noting that “relations between Russia and China are very good.”

NASA still has support from friends in Europa and Japan for its Artemis efforts, but it may not be enough. We’ll have to see how things evolve going forward, but at the moment the success of the Artemis missions appears to be in limbo.