The first time humans stepped foot on the Moon it was the result of a space race between USA and Russia. Now it seems the next mission to the moon will be in a completely different situation; cooperation between the countries.

NASA has announced it will partner with Russian space agency Roscosmos to create a space station in orbit around the moon. The lunar space station will be part of a longer strategy to send humans to Mars. 

A human has not been further away from the Earth than 253 miles (408km), where the International Space Station (ISS) orbits, since the Apollo 17 mission of 1972. 

Sending humans to Mars, which is 33.9 million miles (54.6 million km) away at its theoretically closest point, is a huge task.

Companies like SpaceX have their sights set on getting to Mars, but some astronauts have said they won’t make it.

The average distance from Earth to Mars is 140 million miles (225 million km). So only 550,000 times further away than the space station – no big deal. This is why it’s necessary to first create a station in an orbit around the moon, which will be used as a ‘gateway to deep space and the lunar surface’, according to a NASA statement.

“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,” said Robert Lightfoot, NASA’s acting administrator at NASA Headquarters in Washington.

“Statements such as this one signed with Roscosmos show the gateway concept as an enabler to the kind of exploration architecture that is affordable and sustainable.” 

The US has changed its goals with different presidents over the years. While Barack Obama got rid of George W Bush’s plans to see humans back on the moon, in favour of Mars, it seems Trump’s government has brought the moon back to the list. Not only that but they have brought in Putin’s government for help. 

Cooperation between nations, regardless of political tensions, is not new to space exploration. The ISS is a collaboration between the Russian, US, European, Japanese and Canadian space agencies.

The Russians and Americans will cooperate to build the systems needed to organise scientific missions in lunar orbit and to the surface of the moon, the Russian space agency said in a statement.

“The partners intend to develop international technical standards which will be used later, in particular to create a space station in lunar orbit,” the statement says.

“Roscosmos and Nasa have already agreed on standards for a docking unit of the future station. Taking into account the country’s extensive experience in developing docking units, the station’s future elements will be created using Russian designs.”