In a joint project between the U.S. and Russia, a new space station will one day orbit the moon. Named Deep Space Gateway, the lunar base will be part of a long-term program to send manned flights to other planets, specifically Mars, in the solar system.
The governments of the U.S. and Russia will work together to launch and maintain the moon spaceport, per a Wednesday press release. Sharing a "common vision for human exploration," NASA and the Russian equivalent, Roscosmos, signed an agreement to start planning and building Deep Space Gateway within 10 years.
Once completed, the lunar station will be open to astronauts and scientists across the globe.
"I envision different partners, both international and commercial, contributing to the gateway and using it in a variety of ways with a system that can move to different orbits to enable a variety of missions," explained William Gerstenmaier, associate administrator for Human Exploration and Operations at NASA, as quoted on NASA.gov. "The gateway could move to support robotic or partner missions to the surface of the moon, or to a high lunar orbit to support missions departing from the gateway to other destinations in the solar system."
While Deep Space Gateway is still conceptual, the two space agencies have worked out some of the details. The space station will have extended-stay living quarters for the crew, research facilities, and an airlock with docking capabilities.
Roscosmos will design the life support and docking systems. In addition, Russian-made rockets will transport materials and supplies for the Deep Space Gateway project. Ultimately, when manned deep space missions begin, NASA plans to use U.S.-made SLS rockets and Orion spacecraft.
The joint effort between the space agencies will be a giant leap toward the exploration of the solar system. NASA says astronauts will fly aboard a reusable spacecraft launched from Deep Space Gateway, flown to Mars or other planetary destination, and then return to the station. Once returned, the spacecraft will be serviced and prepared to launch another mission.
To ensure technology will be available as the Deep Space Gateway project progresses, NASA and Roscosmos will work with scientists from all over the world to develop hardware and software specific to long-term space exploration. Both government and private organizations are invited to participate in the lunar venture.
Since 1998, Roscosmos and NASA have been working together on the International Space Station, currently in orbit over the Earth. Despite the current political tensions between the U.S. and Russia, scientists from both countries stay committed to working together for the advancement of all humankind.
[Featured Image by Matt Cardy/Getty Images]