Japan will consider joining a U.S.-proposed project to build a new space station orbiting the moon, hoping such a move will boost the chances of sending Japanese astronauts to the lunar surface, government officials said Friday.
The move indicates Tokyo’s desire to not fall behind in the field of space exploration, as Russia said in September it will collaborate with the United States on the new space station, with an envisioned completion date in the latter half of the 2020s.
Compiled in a report Friday, the science ministry panel proposed that the government consider joining the project. The panel’s suggestion was included in a draft of Japan’s space policy road map, which will become official later this month.
The government believes Japan can contribute to the space station project through its unmanned cargo ship and other technologies.
But details have not been worked out and the financial burden linked to the project may loom large.
In an October report, the panel vaguely approached how the country should pursue manned space missions. However, after Japan and the United States agreed to cooperate in space exploration during November talks, the panel’s way forward started to solidify.
According to NASA, the new space station is expected to serve as a base for manned missions to the moon’s surface as well as a transit point to Mars.
Japan is working to establish its own moon landing technology through the planned launch of an unmanned spacecraft in the fiscal year starting in April 2019.