Asteroid/Kejan
© The Frontier Post/Reuters
Depiction of asteroid defense system • Head of China National Space Admin. Zhang Kejian
China will hold discussions on building a defence system against near-Earth asteroids, a senior space agency official said on Saturday, as the country steps up its longer term space ambitions.

Zhang Kejian, head of the China National Space Administration, did not provide further detail in his opening remarks at a ceremony for China's space day in the eastern city of Nanjing.

China has made space exploration a top priority in recent years, aiming to establish a programme operating thousands of space flights a year and carrying tens of thousands of tonnes of cargo and passengers by 2045.

The European Space Agency last year signed a deal worth 129 million euros ($156 million) to build a spacecraft for a joint project with NASA examining how to deflect an asteroid heading for Earth.

China is pushing forward a mission where one space probe will land on a near-Earth asteroid to collect samples, fly back toward Earth to release a capsule containing the samples, and then orbit another comet, the official Xinhua news agency reported, citing Ye Peijian, an academic at the Chinese Academy of Sciences. The mission could take about a decade to complete, Ye said.

Russia and China signed a memorandum of understanding on Tuesday to set up an international lunar research station, Russia's Roscosmos space agency said. Moscow and Beijing will draw up a roadmap to establish the station and cooperate closely on planning, designing and implementing the project as well as presenting it to the world space community, it said.
"An international lunar science station is a complex of experimental and research facilities created on the surface and/or in orbit of the moon, designed to conduct multidisciplinary and multipurpose research work."
Russia and China will promote international cooperation on the project and offer equal access to any nation that wants to take part, the agency said in a statement on its website.

The memorandum was signed by Roscosmos chief Dmitry Rogozin and Zhang Kejian, head of the China National Space Administration, during a meeting by video conference, it said.

Russia and China have sought to deepen their relations in recent years, especially since 2014 when Moscow's annexation of Crimea from Ukraine badly strained its ties with the West. Earlier on Tuesday China and France reaffirmed their commitment to working together in the field of space exploration.