By Mac Molli
One day after India successfully launched its Chandrayaan-2 moon mission, China claimed its space program is ready to team up with India’s to explore the Moon. Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chungying told a press briefing in Beijing, “We are ready to join forces with India and other countries to carry out lunar explorations,” adding that it is “a shared mission of humankind” to find out more about the Moon and beyond. China praised the Indian launch, offering hopes to improve ties between the two Eastern powers.
Wu Weiren,chief of China’s lunar exploration program, wished India’s Moon landing success “despite previous delays,” according to the Global Times. International efforts to explore the Moon motivates China to move forward, but Wu said China’s space program doesn’t necessarily intend to “compete with anyone over the matter.”
The Chandrayaan-2 mission has, so far, gone off without a hitch. The spacecraft will spend 23 days orbiting Earth, gradually raising its altitude on one side of an elliptical orbit around the planet. If the mission goes as planned, India will be the fourth country to safely land on the Moon’s surface, joining the U.S., USSR, and China. China’s moon mission launched back in December, Chang’e-4, touched down on the Moon’s Aitken Basin to explore the region’s geology, take pictures, and conduct experiments.
Dr. Kai-Uwe Schrogl, President of the International Institute of Space Law, told RT that preparing for joint missions in space is a very complicated undertaking, adding the Chinese proposal is more diplomatic than concrete. “When you have strains in relations, you look for areas which are open for cooperation. One is culture, the other is science,” Schrogl said. “I think it’s a logical move from China if they want to have better relations with India, that they propose activities in those fields.”
Many believe a partnership to explore the Moon would bridge the two powers to repair damaged ties during a long-running geopolitical rivalry. Both have unresolved land disputes along their 2,175 mile long border that cause the occasional clash.
The offer from Beijing to work cooperatively with New Delhi to enhance space exploration ofthe moon and beyond could possibly reinforce bilateral relations between the countries. But according to analysts from RT, they want to foster an international initiative to counter Washington’s ambitions to explore this frontier. Sharing technology and cooperation could help the two countries to compete with the U.S., which has plans for space dominance.
Bruce Gagnon, coordinator with the Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space said, “Both China and India could also be interested in working together in order to preempt the US who also intends to travel to the Moon again very soon. The US wishes to establish a base on the Moon which it could use to exclude others.”
Gagnon also notes that international cooperation in space is important to help stave off militarization of our surrounding space. He cites the UN’s Outer Space and Moon Treaty which states, “Planetary bodies are the province of all humankind.”