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Here’s why the head of NASA wants Canadian boots – and tech – on the next moon mission

WATCH: NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine said Wednesday they want Canada to continue their partnership with the U.S. by helping build robots for their new "Lunar Gateway" both outside and inside the outpost.

The head of NASA, the U.S. space agency, says he wants to see Canadian astronauts walking on the moon before long, as part of a first step toward the farther reaches of space.

Jim Bridenstine, administrator of NASA, says he wants Canada’s decades-long space partnership with the U.S. to continue as NASA embarks on the creation of its new Lunar Gateway.

READ MORE: Trump directs NASA to send Americans to the Moon, lay foundations for Mars mission

The U.S. is seeking broad international support for the next-generation space station it is planning to send into orbit around the moon starting in 2021.

Bridenstine says he wants Canada to contribute its expertise in artificial intelligence and robotics, and that could include a next-generation Canadarm on the Lunar Gateway and more Canadian technology inside.

WATCH: NASA says they want to go to the moon through international collaboration

NASA says they want to go to the moon through international collaboration
NASA says they want to go to the moon through international collaboration
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He says NASA wants to create a “sustainable lunar architecture” that would allow people and equipment to go back and forth to the
moon regularly.

“If Canadians want to be involved in missions to the surface of the moon with astronauts, we welcome that. We want to see that day materialize,” he said told a small group of journalists in Ottawa today.

“We think it would be fantastic for the world to see people on the surface of the moon that are not just wearing the American flag, but wearing the flags of other nations.”

Bridenstine offered a bold vision of what could be accomplished with a “reusable command module so that we can go back and forth to the surface of the moon, over and over and over again with robots, with rovers, with landers, and humans.”

WATCH: NASA says China and U.S. do collaborate on space

NASA says China and U.S. do collaborate on space
NASA says China and U.S. do collaborate on space

He says the return to the moon is a stepping stone to a much more ambitious goal: exploration that could include reaching Mars in the next two decades.

“The moon is, in essence, a proving ground for deeper space exploration,” he said.

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Bridenstine is in Ottawa for a large gathering of the Aerospace Industries Association of Canada, where speculation is running high about Canada’s possible participation in the U.S. space program.

WATCH: How astronauts survive in the harshness of space

Innovation Minister Navdeep Bains, a vocal booster of Canada’s AI hubs in Ontario and Quebec, is also scheduled to speak, along with one of Canada’s former astronauts, Marc Garneau, the current federal transport minister.

On Dec. 3, Canadian astronaut David Saint-Jacques will travel to the International Space Station on his first mission.

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