The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) has ambitious plans to put an astronaut on the moon sometime around 2030, according to new proposals from the space agency.
This is the first time JAXA has publicly explored sending astronauts anywhere beyond the International Space Station, a JAXA spokeswoman said Friday.
The idea is to first join a NASA-led mission in 2025 to build a space station in the moon’s orbit — part of a longer-term effort by NASA to reach Mars.
Tokyo hopes that contributing to the multinational mission and sharing Japanese technology will land it a coveted spot at the station, from which it could eventually put an astronaut on the moon, the spokeswoman said.
The plan was presented to an education ministry panel on Wednesday and a more formal blueprint is expected next year.
According to JAXA, it plans to make contributions to the multinational mission by developing water and air purifiers and technology to protect astronauts from radiation to be used for the space station.
It will also work on developing a probe to enable astronauts to move between the space station and the moon, using the technology of an unmanned probe it plans to send to the moon in fiscal 2019.
JAXA also proposed its plan to launch a project in 2022 to send an unmanned probe from the Earth to the moon to search for natural resources.
China and India are already looking to expand their ambitious space programs.
In November, China’s Shenzhou-11 spacecraft returned to Earth, bringing home two astronauts from the rising power’s longest orbital mission ever.
Beijing has also unveiled illustrations for a Mars probe and rover it aims to send to the red planet at the end of the decade.
NASA and other global space agencies are working hard on sending astronauts to Mars by the 2030s. In March, the U.S. Congress passed a bill — signed by U.S. President Donald Trump — directing NASA to send a manned mission to Mars in 2033.