It was announced in July 2023 that the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela (known commonly as Venezuela) would join the China-led International Lunar Research Station (ILRS) project, which is a long-term project dedicated to studying the moon. Located on the northern coast of South America, Venezuela boasts a population estimated at over 29 million people.
This joint declaration, named the “Memorandum of Cooperation between the China National Space Administration and the Bolivarian Space Agency of Venezuela on the International Lunar Research Station,” was officially signed by Zhang Kejian, the administrator of the China National Space Administration (CNSA), and by Gabriela Jimenez, the Vice President and Minister of Science and Technology in Venezuela, via video on July 17. With this agreement, Venezuela became the first Latin American country to join the ILRS.
Growing Diplomatic Relations Between China and Venezuela
China also recently announced that they have upgraded their diplomatic ties with Venezuela to an “all-weather” partnership, a label which is reserved for a select few of its diplomatic partners.
While on his fifth state visit to China, Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro and Chinese President Xi Jinping signed a series of bilateral documents to, among other things, increase cooperation in the areas of economy, trade, and education. China is also reportedly willing to increase its imports of Venezuelan products.
Over the past decade, Venezuela has faced a humanitarian crisis that has resulted in an estimated 7 million people leaving the nation’s borders. In January 2019, the United States, under President Donald Trump, implemented strict sanctions that cut off Venezuela from global energy and capital markets. Despite these sanctions, Venezuela’s economy has continued to grow and regenerate. Last year, the Biden Administration eased part of the sanctions against the country.
Space Exploration & Research
Interest in space exploration has increased vastly in recent years. Last month, South India made headlines for becoming the first country to successfully land a spacecraft on the moon’s south pole, joining the United States, Russia, and China as the only four nations to ever successfully land on the moon.
Companies like Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin have even begun pioneering passenger space tourism. In 2021, Blue Origin lost a legal battle against Elon Musk’s SpaceX where they sought to overturn NASA’s multibillion-dollar moon lander contract.
The ILRS consists of cooperation between China, Russia, Venezuela, Pakistan, the United Arab Emirates, and South Africa. The base plans to serve as an experiment and research base on the lunar surface or in lunar orbit. The ILRS plans to carry out multi-disciplinary and multi-objective scientific research activities including exploration and utilization, lunar-based observation, basic scientific experiment and technical verification, and long-term autonomous operation.