By Julia Ordaz
Chinese media has reported that China plans to build a lunar base starting in 2028 using lunar bricks. 100 scientists from many different Chinese universities attended the conference at Huazhong University of Science in Wuhan to discuss potential infrastructure plans. The base will likely be powered with nuclear energy and will provide access to the minerals and resources on the moon.
From the Chinese Academy of Engineering, expert Ding Lieyun told local media, “We will be using real moon soil to make the first brick right there on the moon.” Ding has been developing a robot named “Chinese Super Mason” that is able to turn lunar soil into bricks. The robot will be launched during the Chang’e 8 mission in 2028. Chang’e 6, 7, and 8 missions will be responsible for constructing a lander, hopper, orbiter, and rover for the lunar base.
In 2020, China collected soil samples from the near side of the moon, and plans on collecting samples from the far side in 2025 during the Chang’e 6 mission. The information gathered from these samples could aid in the understanding of how to build with lunar soil. Chang’e 7 will be sent out in 2026 to search for water/ice.
In a separate interview, Ding added, “Eventually, building habitation beyond the Earth is essential not only for all humanity’s quest for space exploration, but also for China’s strategic needs as a space power.”
But the decision of expansion comes months after NASA Chief Bill Nelson’s warnings. At the beginning of January 2023, Nelson said in an interview with Politico that, “It is a fact: we’re in a space race. And it is true that we better watch out that they [China] don’t get to a place on the moon under the guise of scientific research. And it is not beyond the realm of possibility that they say, ‘Keep out, we’re here, this is our territory.’” NASA too is interested in building on the moon, aiming to create a base that can mine resources to create fuel, water, and oxygen.
The key difference between China’s and NASA’s goals is that China plans to set robots down to begin construction before they send people, while NASA hopes to get astronauts on the moon by 2025, before they start construction.