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China to share access to moon 'treasures' with others

By ZHANG ZHIHAO | China Daily | Updated: 2020-12-18 08:32
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The lander-ascender combination of Chang'e 5 robotic lunar probe finished gathering lunar samples and packed them in a vacuum container on Dec 2. [Photo provided to China Daily]

China's space agency will cooperate with other countries, based on the principles of fairness and shared benefits, with regard to the lunar soil samples collected by Chang'e 5, China National Space Administration said on Thursday.

Xu Hongliang, spokesman for the administration, said at a news briefing hosted by the State Council Information Office that it is the first time in 44 years that humanity has retrieved soil samples from the moon, so many space agencies around the world are paying close attention to the feat.

Many foreign space agencies have sent congratulatory letters to China and expressed their wish to conduct joint research.

"We are very welcoming (of joint research)," Xu said.

China National Space Administration has signed over 140 cooperation agreements with more than 40 countries, and is proactively participating in 18 international organizations.

"The lunar sample is the shared treasure of mankind. We are willing to conduct cooperation with international peers on the basis of fairness and shared benefits," he said, adding that agencies in China will issue guidelines on how samples will be studied and shared.

Wu Yanhua, deputy director of China National Space Administration, said China is willing to conduct friendly and sincere cooperation with the United States, but NASA and other official agencies from the US have been prohibited from collaborating with their Chinese peers since 2011.

"Whether cooperation can take place depends on the policy of the US government," he said.

Wu said the lunar soil samples will be used in three ways: research, museum exhibitions and to be shared with international peers or be given as gifts to heads of state and dignitaries. But research will remain the most important and primary use of the valuable samples, he added.

Li Chunlai, a researcher from the National Astronomical Observatories of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, said the samples China collected are from a new excavation site on the moon, making them one-of-a-kind specimens in studying the geological evolution of the moon.

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