Russia and the USA have agreed to collaborate on a Nasa-led programme to construct the first lunar space station, a part of a longterm project to send humans to Mars.
The US space agency said earlier this year that it was researching a programme known as the Deep Space Gateway, a multi-stage endeavor to push farther into the solar system.
Nasa has been far from coy in its aspirations to send people to orbit Mars from the 2030s, and following plans to colonise of the red planet.
While George W Bush was eager to see people on the moon again by 2020, Barack Obama ditched the strategy and focused on strategies to go to Mars, including a mission to check the essential technology by capturing a boulder in the surface of an asteroid and bringing it into lunar orbit.
Now, it appears, it is all change again. With the Trump government, asteroid missions have fallen from favour: using a spaceport orbiting the moon, crewed visits to the lunar surface are once more on the menu.
On Wednesday the Russian space agency Roscosmos declared that a cooperation agreement was signed in an astronautical congress in Adelaide.
“The partners intend to develop global technical criteria which will be used afterwards, specifically to make a space station in lunar orbit,” the Russian agency said in a statement.
The Russians and Americans would collaborate to create the systems required to organise scientific assignments in lunar orbit and into the surface of the moon, the bureau added.
“Roscosmos and Nasa have already agreed on criteria for a docking unit of the future station. Taking into consideration that the country’s extensive experience in creating docking units, the channel’s future components will be generated using Russian layouts.”
Igor Komarov, Roscosmos’s general manager, said no fewer than five nations were building their own rockets and systems.
“To prevent future problems over technical collaboration, part of the criteria should be unified — to get a possibility for a variety of nations to work in their craft and pier into the global lunar channel,” Komarov was quoted as saying in the statement.
Russia and the United States also spoke with Moscow’s Proton-M and Angara rockets to help make the infrastructure of the lunar spaceport, the announcement said, adding that the key works were scheduled to start in the mid-2020s.
The $100bn ISS, which was orbiting Earth at about 17,000mph per hour since 1998, is the world’s largest space project.