The US and Russia are teaming up to build a lunar outpost that will orbit the moon. Dubbed the Deep Space Gateway, the space station will work as a hub allowing astronauts to study the moon in more detail and as a rest stop on the way to more distant destinations like Mars.
Russian space agency Roscosmos announced its partnership with NASA in a speech at International Astronautical Congress in Adelaide, Australia. Construction is set to begin in 2022 and both countries alluded to ongoing talks with other countries which may be interested in joining the project.
And just like the International Space Station (ISS) welcomes astronauts and cosmonauts from around the world, the lunar version will do the same. Both space agencies expressed hope the partnership will elicit greater international cooperation regarding space exploration as well as create some standards for all the technical equipment being used in space.
At the moment, we know the two countries have already agreed to use Russian standards and designs for all docking units. This means the new outpost can avoid one headache the ISS suffers today which is that countries building their spacecraft to different specifications must then also figure out ways to build adapters if they want to dock their craft onto the ISS.
“At least five countries are working on the creation of their own manned spacecraft and systems,” said General Director of Roskosmos State Corporation Igor Komarov in Roscosmos’s announcement. “In order to avoid problems in the future in technical cooperation, part of the standards should be unified – for the ability of different countries to work on their products and to join the international near-moon station. Part of the key standards will be formed on the basis of Russian developments. The agreements reached open new prospects for international cooperation and expand the opportunities for using the capabilities of the Russian space industry.”
NASA has been teasing us with the idea of a moon orbiting station for some time. In March, they released a statement outlining their vision for such a space craft. A key benefit was in having a close-to-home testing grounds for longer space missions.
“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,” said William Gerstenmaier, associate administrator for Human Exploration and Operations at NASA Headquarters in Washington, in a statement. “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.”