If the U.S. and Russia can’t get along on earth, maybe they will have better luck near the moon.
The countries’ space agencies on Wednesday announced an agreement to build the first lunar-orbiting space station. NASA and Roscosmos, the Russian space agency, both hope to put humans on Mars and see a lunar station as a “gateway” toward future deep-space goals.
The new station, which would reside inside the moon’s orbit, may eventually replace the aging International Space Station.
At a station within the moon’s orbit, astronauts could test systems in a “true deep space environment” like they would experience near Mars, but get back to Earth quickly if they need to, NASA officials explained in March.
The American organization has been vocal about their goals to send humans to Mars within the next two decades.
However, in the past few months, Russian leaders have been uncertain about collaborating on such a project, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Instead, Russian leaders have considered working on a different project with China, which, according to aerospace-technology.com, has the largest fleet of spacecraft in orbit after the U.S.
But the NASA’s signed agreement with Roscosmos at the 68th International Astronautical Congress in Adelaide, Australia, secured the deal.
Russia and the U.S. will team up, with more minor players such as Japan, the European Space Agency and Canada still in discussion about joining the team.
“While the deep space gateway is still in concept formulation, NASA is pleased to see growing international interest in moving into cislunar space as the next step for advancing human space exploration,” Robert Lightfoot, NASA’s acting administrator at NASA Headquarters in Washington, said in a press release.
“Statements such as this one signed with Roscosmos show the gateway concept as an enabler to the kind of exploration architecture that is affordable and sustainable.”
The agreement didn’t give details about funding or engineering specifics, but the Boeing Co. and Lockheed Martin Corp. were reportedly asked to create risk-reduction and construction plans for the new station.
The International Space Station, which has been orbiting Earth since 1998, is supposed to go out of service in 2024 and would ideally be replaced by the lunar station.
But Boeing, the current station’s main contractor, warned that until the replacement is built, it is hard to predict when the current station will be put out of service.
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