The space agencies of Russia and the United States just signed a joint statement to develop projects to further explore outer space. One could be the Deep Space Gateway, a lunar spaceport that could act as a launching point for missions to the Moon and Mars.
NASA and Roscosmos signed the statement Wednesday at the 68th International Astronautical Congress in Australia. According to Roscosmos’ press release, the two agencies agreed to use the International Space Station as a base for more space exploration. They also agreed to cooperate on a moon program by building the Deep Space Gateway, creating international technical standards, and carrying out scientific missions on and orbiting the moon.
Why the focus on the moon? One reason, according to a March statement from NASA, is that astronauts can gain experience in a deep space environment near the moon, but can return to Earth quickly if necessary. They can also conduct robotic missions on the moon surface.
NASA acting administrator Robert Lightfoot said, “NASA is pleased to see growing international interest in moving into cislunar space as the next step for advancing human space exploration. 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.”
NASA has already been working on the gateway concept with industry partners. For example, Lockheed Martin is building a habitation, repurposing a historic piece of flight hardware to do so. Roscosmos will also start working with industry partners on gateway concepts studies.
Roscosmos said other space powers are also thinking about getting in on the moon project. The main work on the lunar station should commence in the mid-2020’s.