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China + Russia = Ambitious Plans in Space (Mainly for the Moon)

The race for the Moon continues to accelerate as China and Russia solidify plans for an International Lunar Research Station, or ILRS.

The endeavor is open to organizations and countries who wish to participate in planning, design, research, development, implementation and operations.

The China National Space Administration introduced early details of the ILRS project, including crewed visits to the moon, a super heavy-lift launcher, and a long-term human presence on the lunar south pole. The current ILRS timeline extends out to 2045, with an aggressive timeline leading up to a permanent settlement.

This development also comes on the heels of Russia’s space agency Roscosmos, pulling out of NASA’s Gateway project and considering withdrawing from the International Space Station partnership in 2025.

Additionally, Vladimir Putin has just confirmed the successful test of an interceptor rocket that “can destroy US space missiles.”

An alarming video showed the launch of this new missile at an anti-ballistic missile test site operated by Russian Aerospace Forces in Kazakhstan.

This defense system is designed to destroy ballistic missiles that are fired into sub-orbital spaceflight before re-entering our atmosphere during an attack. This particular rocket can travel at over 3km per second – more than 4 times the speed of a bullet from an AK47.

Russia continues to be secretive about many of their space endeavors, so this is yet another reminder for the United States that they aren’t the only ones with sights on the Final Frontier.

Now we jump from a government space race to a commercial one.

After awarding a $2.9 billion contract to SpaceX for building a lunar lander, NASA is now the target of a protest that comes from Blue Origin, Jeff Bezos’ rocket company.

Blue Origin was considered the project’s frontrunner by many, and had built what they called a “national team” involving Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and Draper to compete for the contract.

According to Blue Origin, “NASA has executed a flawed acquisition for the Human Landing System program and moved the goalposts at the last minute. In NASA’s own words, it has made a ‘high risk’ selection. Their decision eliminates opportunities for competition, significantly narrows the supply base, and not only delays, but also endangers America’s return to the Moon.”

Although Blue Origin’s bid was for more than twice the money of SpaceX’s bid, Bob Smith, Blue Origin’s chief executive, challenged that NASA allowed SpaceX to make payment schedule changes to work “within NASA’s current budget.”

“We didn’t get a chance to revise, and that’s fundamentally unfair,” said Smith.

Although NASA declined to comment “due to the pending litigation,” Elon Musk wasn’t so shy, tweeting a cheeky “Can’t get it up (to orbit) lol”

It will be interesting to see how this protest goes, as the 2 richest men in the world continue to trade blows in the space economy. We’ll watch this story for you, so be sure to subscribe to our Flight Crew Newsletter for future updates.

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