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NASA and Russia team up to build space station near the moon

A photo of the moon taken during the STS-70 mission.
A photo of the moon taken during the STS-70 mission. SSPL/Getty Images

NASA confirmed Wednesday morning that it is partnering up with Russia to build a space station near the moon.

The announcement is part of a project the space agency unveiled in March, dubbed “Deep-Space Gateway,” which is meant to increase human presence in the solar system.

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In a statement, NASA explained the alliance with the Russian Space Agency, called Roscosmos, ensures it has the “strategic capability” to carry out the lunar mission, which would explore the area surrounding the moon. It also makes executing the mission more affordable.

The technology developed for this mission is meant to eventually lead to a mission to Mars, the statement noted.

In an earlier release about the Deep-Space Gateway, NASA explained: “Missions in the vicinity of the moon will span multiple phases as part of NASA’s framework to build a flexible, reusable and sustainable infrastructure that will last multiple decades and support missions of increasing complexity.”

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The success of the mission to the moon will confirm whether humans have the ability to withstand longer trips, it added.

The space station’s exact concept is still under development, but it will involve a crew of astronauts, as it orbits and lands on the moon. The work is expected to begin in the 2020s.

The head of Roscomos, Igor Komarov, confirmed the news in a separate statement.

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“We have agreed to join the project to build a new international Deep Space Gateway station in the moon’s orbit,” he said.

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The partnership comes after Russia was reportedly considering taking on the mission by itself, but it was deemed too expensive.

While there are political tensions between the U.S. and Russia, they have worked together in space exploration, including on the International Space Station (ISS). Several countries — mainly United States, Russia, Europe, Japan, and Canada — are responsible for operating the ISS, which NASA boasts as the “most politically complex space exploration program ever undertaken.”