NASA and Roscosmos signed a statement Sept. 27 supporting research that may lead to a cislunar habitat, but are far from a final agreement to cooperate on developing it.
NASA signed the joint statement with the Russian space corporation Roscosmos during the 68th International Astronautical Congress to research for deep space exploration that “reflects the common vision for human exploration” .
“Both agencies, as well as other International Space Station partners, see the gateway as a strategic component of human space exploration architecture that warrants additional study,” NASA said in its statement.
The research could support joint development of the Deep Space Gateway, a human-tended facility in cislunar space that NASA has proposed as a technology and operational test-bed for future human missions to Mars.
NASA noted it was engaged with industry in studies, such as the Next Space Technologies for Exploration Partnerships program for habitat modules that could support development of the gateway. Russia and other potential international partners are preparing their own studies that could benefit the gateway.
President George W Bush wanted to see humans on the moon again by 2020, Barack Obama got rid of the plan to focus on plans for a human mission to Mars.
With the Trump administration, asteroid missions aren’t as important: with a spaceport/station orbiting the moon, crewed visits to the lunar surface are once again possible.
The Russian statement added that “the future elements of the station will be created on the basis of Russian developments, as well as the standards of life support systems.”
However, NASA has yet to formally adopt the Deep Space Gateway as a program or seek funding for it. “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 Acting Administrator Robert Lightfoot said in the NASA statement.
At a press conference here Sept. 25, Lightfoot said that he had only started discussions with the ISS partners in April during a meeting at the Space Symposium in Colorado Springs. He also stressed that the Deep Space Gateway remained a concept, with no timeframe for making a decision on whether and how to proceed with it.
“Studies of the gateway concept will provide technical information to inform future decisions about potential collaborations,” NASA said in its statement. “These domestic and international studies are being used to shape the capabilities and partnering options for implementing the deep space gateway.”