Russia and the United States agreed Wednesday to cooperate on a NASA-led project 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.

An international base for lunar exploration for humans and robots and a stopover for spacecraft is a leading contender to succeed the $100 billion International Space Station (ISS), the world’s largest space project to date.

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