With constant chatter about U.S. officials working with the Russians, the two governments have come out to announce a groundbreaking partnership, but it’s probably not what you think. The two global powers are teaming up to construct a new base circling the Moon.
According to a joint statement, signed by both countries at the 68th International Astronautical Congress in Australia, Russian officials have agreed to join a NASA-led project that will build a new space station in orbit around the Moon.
“While the deep space gateway is still in concept formulation, NASA is pleased to see growing international interest,” NASA’s acting administrator Robert Lightfoot said. “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.”
According to reports, NASA and its partners plan to start construction of the new orbital habitat in the early 2020’s. Once completed, the base will become an interstellar road stop for astronauts hoping to explore planets like Mars. The mission will be the first time humans have left the Earth’s orbit since the end of the Apollo program in 1972.
NASA and Russia’s space organization, Roscosmos, are being joined by several private companies like Boeing to develop the technology needed to build the Deep Space Gateway.
“The area of space near the moon offers a true deep space environment to gain experience for human missions that push farther into the solar system,” NASA added in the project’s mission statement.