Russian space agency Roscosmos and NASA are ready to collaborate for future space missions. Both agencies signed a joint statement on September 27 at the 68th International Astronautical Congress in Australia, expressing their intent to develop a Deep Space Gateway lunar orbit station. Both agencies also agreed to conduct an integrated mission of the Orion spacecraft and Space Launch System rocket.

Deep Space Gateway will orbit the moon

The concept of Deep Space Gateway is still in a preliminary stage, according to Robert Lightfoot, Acting Administrator at NASA Headquarters in Washington.

He says NASA is pleased to see that space agencies of other countries are also taking interest in human exploration of the cislunar space. Lightfoot said considering Russia’s vast experience in development of docking units, the future elements of lunar orbit station will be built using Russian designs. Deep Space Gateway will orbit the moon and will act as a platform to carry out moon landing missions. The project is likely to involve some more international partners including China and European Space Agency as well as some partners from the US industry.

Space race of the 1960s

While the US and Russia are happy to collaborate in the space sector, the situation was not the same 60 years ago. In the 1960s, these two superpowers of the world were big rivals in the space.

This space rivalry started in 1957 with the launch of USSR-made Sputnik I, the world’s first satellite in space. This race further intensified in 1962 when US President John F. Kennedy announced to put an American into moon by the end of the decade. And then the rivalry peaked with Neil Armstrong's famous small step on the moon in 1969.

The USSR also tried to accomplish crewed lunar missions but failed and eventually canceled its moon program. Both countries soon realized that their space rivalry was actually proving to be a very expensive show for them.

Cooperative missions

In 1972, both space agencies agreed to complete their first cooperative mission, the Apollo–Soyuz project, in which Russian and American capsules were joined to see how they could work together in space.

The next joint project between two countries was the development of the International Space Station (ISS). Canada was also part of this $149 billion project. More recently, the Russians have been carrying American astronauts to the ISS in their Soyuz spacecraft. On September 3, 2017, NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson completed her record-breaking mission aboard the ISS. She returned to Earth aboard a Soyuz capsule that landed in the grasslands of Kazakhstan.

According to NASA, the lunar orbit station partners are now trying to identify probable missions for the 2020s. The focus remains on ensuring that all future space missions fully utilize technological advancement achieved during ISS project and also take into account the lessons learned during the development and operations of the space station.