Nasa and the Russian space agency Roscosmos will be working together to build a "deep space gateway", which could include a space station in the vicinity of the moon. A joint statement was signed on 27 September during the International Astronautical Congress (IAC) held at Adelaide, Australia.
Such a gateway could help in the exploration of the solar system and extend the time spent by manned missions in space, Nasa said in a press release. The space agency has already started making concept studies with private industry partners and other members of the International Space Station (ISS), like the Roscosmos, will also begin to do the same.
Nasa said it is planning to use the deep space exploration systems that it already possesses like the Orion spacecraft and the Space Launch System rockets for the mission.
"While the deep space gateway is still in concept formulation, NASA is pleased to see growing international interest in moving into cislunar space as the next step for advancing human space exploration," said Robert Lightfoot, Nasa's acting administrator at the Nasa headquarters in Washington. "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," he added.
ISS partners are working to identify "common exploration objectives" and missions for the 2020s and that includes this gateway concept. A base near the moon would allow for longer duration missions far from Earth.
Space explorations beyond the moon, to Mars, for example, would be more practical if there was a base orbiting the moon, Nasa said. Perhaps, a base on the moon itself, might not be too far-fetched an idea as research by the University of Padova, Italy, has revealed there are cave like structures on the moon where settlements are possible.
People like Elon Musk, who operates SpaceX, have been targeting Mars as a place where humans could move to avoid extinction. He is working hard towards putting people on the red planet and has released a few simulation videos ahead of his presentation on the interplanetary transport system at the IAC.
The joint statement that was signed is an agreement to work together in the future, and details of the extent of the partnership between Nasa and Roscosmos are still not clear.