İrem UZUN -TDO- Russia has signed a memorandum of understanding with China to construct a joint lunar space station, the national space agency, Roscosmos, announced on Tuesday. The station is envisioned as a "complex of experimental research facilities created on the surface and/or in the orbit of the moon," according to a statement from Roscosmos. A statement from both countries' space agencies says the station will be available for use by other nations.

Agreement comes as Russia prepares to celebrate the 60th anniversary of its first-ever manned space flight. The International Scientific Lunar Station will carry out a wide range of scientific research including exploration and utilization of the moon, a statement from both agencies said. "China and Russia will use their accumulated experience in space science, research and development and use of space equipment and space technology to jointly develop a road map for the construction of an international lunar scientific research station," the statement said. It added that both Russia and China will collaborate in the planning, design, development and operation of the research station.

Russia sent the first human into space but in the post-Soviet era it has been eclipsed by China and the U.S., which have both made strides in space exploration and research.  Russia sent Yuri Gagarin into space in April 1961, followed by the first woman, Valentina Tereshkova, two years later. The U.S. space agency NASA launched its first crewed space flight a month after Russia, sending Alan Shepard up on Mercury-Redstone 3.  China in 2020 launched its Tianwen-1 probe which is now orbiting Mars. In December 2020 it brought rock and soil samples from the Moon back to Earth, the first mission of this type in over 40 years.

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