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Russia, NASA are reportedly planning to build a lunar space station as a stepping-stone toward Mars

The United States and Russia agreed Wednesday to collaborate on the first-ever international lunar outpost, AFP reports. The "modular habitat," known as the "Deep-Space Gateway," or DSG, would orbit the moon in the 2020s and serve as a stepping-stone towards a mission to Mars in the 2030s, Popular Mechanics reports.

“We have agreed to join the project to build a new international Deep Space Gateway station in the moon's orbit," said Igor Komarov, the head of the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos). In its own earlier announcement of the project, NASA said that it is "leading the next steps into deep space near the moon, where astronauts will build and begin testing the systems needed for challenging missions to deep space destinations including Mars."

Russia had reportedly been considering going solo on its own long-term outpost on the moon in addition to launching its successor to the International Space Station. Doing both, however, would have proven too costly. "Under these circumstances, Roscosmos probably realized that it would be beneficial to continue cooperating with its ISS partners on the near-lunar outpost," Popular Mechanics writes.

The Deep-Space Gateway will reportedly host a lander that can shuttle cosmonauts from the main habitat to the surface of the moon. While NASA will lead the project, Russia would in particular contribute its expertise in lunar landers to the collaboration.

"The area of space near the moon offers a true deep space environment to gain experience for human missions that push farther into the solar system, access the lunar surface for robotic missions but with the ability to return to Earth if needed in days rather than weeks or months," NASA added. Read more about plans for the Deep-Space Gateway at Popular Mechanics and NASA.