On September 27, 2017, NASA and Russian space agency Roscosmos released a joint statement announcing plans to cooperate on a NASA-led program to build the first lunar space station.
For those growing concerned from constant rumblings in the news about the deteriorating relationship between Russia and the U.S., perhaps making a wish on a shooting star might actually work this time around. It seems that the U.S. and Russia are capable of moving past their ongoing tension on the ground in order to shoot for the moon, as NASA and Russian space agency Roscosmos announced on Wednesday that they will join forces to cooperate on a NASA-led program to build the first lunar space station.
The two agencies signed a joint statement at the 68th International Congress in Adelaide, Australia, reflecting their common vision for human exploration. They plan to work together on the Deep Space Gateway program, NASA’s plan to build a space station in orbit around the moon, with a stated goal of beginning the project by the mid-2020s. The station will be used to develop new techniques and apply approaches to longer-duration missions farther from Earth. NASA explains in an article published on their website today that 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 has not been shy in recent years about their hope of sending humans to Mars by the 2030s, and this joint venture back into space is a crucial first step. Roscosmos and NASA have already begun the process of creating international technical standards for the space station. In an early step, recognizing Russia’s experience running the International Space Station (ISS), NASA expects to adopt both docking ports and life support systems from Russian designs.
American astronaut Douglas H. Wheelock, who earlier this year called for Russia and the U.S. to work together, must be happy to hear the news. In April, he told Reuters “I wish I could drag our congress up here [to the ISS] to see this. Just take a look and you see that thin blue line [atmosphere]. That’s all of our next breath… And when you see that you begin to realize how fragile we are as humans. And maybe there’s more to this existence than survival or providing for ourselves,” the astronaut noted. “We’re all breathing the same air. We can draw borders, but from space you can’t see them.” Perhaps the view from the lunar space station will help us all keep that in mind.
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