NASA has signed an agreement with the Russian Space Agency, Roscosmos to partner in building a brand-new space station around the Moon.
There are no design plans or budgets as yet, however Roscosmos have said that work could start on the lunar station in the 2020s.
The agreement to build a space station together is part of NASA’s wider Deep Space Gateway project.
This was a plan put together by NASA that would see the building of a lunar space station, not only as a testing site for further deep space exploration but then also as a staging ground for spacecraft looking to extend beyond the realms of Earth’s orbit.
Speaking about the historic agreement, Robert Lightfoot, NASA’s acting administrator at NASA Headquarters in Washington said: “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,”
NASA will initially start with a number of manned and unmanned missions to the Moon.
Using the lessons they’ve learned from the International Space Station, the next step would be to lay concrete plans around building a new lunar space station.
Part of this enormous task will be making sure that everything is universally standardised.
Thanks to Russia’s continued track record of sending crew to the ISS, it has already been agreed that a universal docking system will be agreed upon using Russia’s designs.
NASA has said on numerous occasions that it wants to send humans to Mars by 2030 and this space station will almost certainly be a major step in that direction.
Initially NASA had said that it would send an astronaut to an asteroid as part of its roadmap to the red planet, however it looks as though the Moon will now replace that mission as one of the key staging grounds.
7 Incredible Discoveries By Cassini
Cassini has been getting up close to Saturn's planet-sized moon, Titan. Taking incredible photographs and learning more about its dunes, mountains and seas of pure liquid methane (definitely not for swimming). Not to mention the 95% nitrogen atmosphere.
Just like our home planet, Saturn has powerful magnetic fields at its poles that create shimmering auroras, and for the first time Cassini was able to capture these incredible (and pretty intimidating) images of the glowing-pink Southern lights.
Not only are Saturn's poles decorated with beautiful auroras, they also have violent swirling storms with an (unusual) six-sided jet stream that creates these hexagonal weather patterns. But you don't want to get too close, as NASA found the eye of hurricanes on Saturn are 50 times wider than those on Earth.
Hyperion is the largest of Saturn's "potato-shaped" moons and is likely to be the result of a violent collision that shattered a larger object into pieces. The sponge-like appearance means it has an unusually low density for such a large object -- about half that of water - and any material that comes into contact with it gets blown off, never to return.
Pre-Cassini, scientists didn't understand why Encleadus was the brightest world in the solar system. But Cassini found it has a huge ocean of salty liquid water hidden beneath a surface of ice with exploding hydrothermal vents that send sporadic plumes of water shooting out into space. It is also one of the most promising locations for extra terrestrial life...
The Lapetus Ridge
Saturn's two-toned moon, Lapetus, is surrounded in a cloud of reddish dust that gets swept around in orbit giving it a hellish colour. But that's not the strangest find, for the first time Cassini photographed a topographic ridge that runs along the equator. No one knows yet whether this is a mountain or a crack in the surface.
Cassini's final mission has required getting closer to Saturn than ever before, dropping from a normal altitude of 1,000,000km above to just 120,000km. Although this did require Cassini to enter a "death plunge" and sacrifice itself, it has also resulted in the most intricate images of Saturn's B rings ever recorded, clearly showing the spiral density waves.