Russia and the United States have agreed to cooperate on a Nasa-led programme to build the first lunar space station, part of a long-term project to send humans to Mars.
The US space agency said earlier this year that it was exploring a programme called the Deep Space Gateway, a multi-stage project to push further into the solar system.
The project envisages building a crew-tended spaceport in lunar orbit that would serve as a “gateway to deep space and the lunar surface,” Nasa has said.
Nasa has been far from coy in its ambitions to send humans to orbit Mars by the 2030s, and subsequent plans to colonise of the red planet. But plans to return to the moon have waxed and waned with the US administration.
While George W Bush was keen to see humans on the moon again by 2020, Barack Obama ditched the plan and focused on plans to visit Mars, including a mission to test the necessary technology by capturing a boulder from the surface of an asteroid and bringing it into lunar orbit.
Now, it seems, it’s all change again. With the Trump administration, asteroid missions have fallen from favour: with a spaceport orbiting the moon, crewed visits to the lunar surface are once again on the menu.