Tensions between Beijing and Washington may be running high over trade and technology, but when it comes to space exploration, the U.S. and China are collaborating more than ever.
Earlier this month, the China National Space Administration (CNSA) and NASA shared information for the first time since 2011 in hopes of better monitoring the landing of China’s Chang’e 4 lunar probe. NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) was unable to capture the landing as it happened but has been capturing data ever since, and NASA plans to share that information with China and later with the international community.
NASA’s renewed collaboration with China is all a part of its plan to get back to the Moon, possibly as soon as 2020. China won’t be its only collaborator either: The agency is open to collaborating with international partners as well as commercial ones in its mission, as directed by President Trump, to return to the Moon with the intention of building a base that could support further travel in space — specifically, to Mars.
As China’s star rises, the fate of the long-standing U.S.-Russia space cooperation is in doubt. Political tensions between the two countries, as well as some concern about the declining quality of Russian hardware has put strain on the relationship.