The Canadian Government has announced support for the Nasa-led Lunar Gateway project, which aims to send a space station in lunar orbit to support future expeditions to the Earth’s natural satellite.

The Gateway project involves the creation of a Moon outpost to provide living space for astronauts, a docking station for visiting spacecraft, and research laboratories.

It will support crew expeditions with multiple trips down to the lunar surface and enable exploration of new locations across the Moon, Nasa stated. The project is also expected to set the stage for further exploration to Mars.

With the announcement, Canada has now become the first international partner of the Gateway outpost.

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“Our new collaboration on Gateway will enable our broader international partnership to get to the Moon and eventually to Mars.”

As part of the partnership, Canada will develop a smart robotic system known as Canadarm3 to repair and maintain the Gateway.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said: “With the Lunar Gateway, Canada will play a major role in one of the most ambitious projects ever undertaken.

“Together, with our partners from around the world, we’ll continue to push the boundaries of human ambition, and inspire generations of kids – and adults – to always aim higher and aspire to something greater.”

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The government plans to invest C$2.05bn ($1.55bn) over a 24-year period to support the country’s space programme.

Of the total investment, C$150m ($113.93m) will be allocated for a new Lunar Exploration Accelerator Program that will help domestic businesses develop new technologies for use in lunar orbit and on the Moon’s surface in a range of fields such as artificial intelligence, robotics, and health.

Nasa aims to launch the project’s first major part that is designed to provide power and propulsion for the spaceship in 2022.

The agency plans to fully assemble the Gateway by 2026. It involves sending astronauts on reusable landers to the Gateway with new parts every year until the assembling is completed.

Commenting on Canada signing up for the project, Nasa administrator Jim Bridenstine said: “Our new collaboration on Gateway will enable our broader international partnership to get to the Moon and eventually to Mars.”