Rome [Italy], June 18: An Italian-designed lunar module could become operational on the moon as early as 2026, the head of the Italian Space Agency (ASI) said Friday.
Speaking at the United States Embassy in Rome, ASI President Giorgio Saccoccia revealed an agreement for Italy to design the next-generation lunar module -- a kind of housing compound for space travelers, a "fundamental first step" to establishing a long-term presence on the moon.
The module could be operational between 2026 and 2027, according to media reports confirmed by an ASI official.
Saccoccia spoke at the embassy alongside Bill Nelson, administrator of the U.S. 'National Aeronautics and Space Administration, or NASA.
Nelson traveled to Rome to seal an agreement for Italy to prepare a preliminary study for "Lunar Surface Multi-Purpose Habitation Modules."
The agreement between ASI and NASA is part of the broad Artemis Program, a new human spaceflight program that includes goals such as exploring the unexplored southern part of the moon, sending a woman to the moon for the first time, and testing technologies for a manned flight to Mars.
In a televised interview, Nelson, a former U.S. senator, said NASA is looking to work together with the European Space Agency and national space entities like ASI to carry out the long-term ExoMars project which aims to reach Mars.
The project, initially scheduled to be operated in cooperation with the Russian Space Agency, has been cast in doubt since the start of Russia's conflict with Ukraine.