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The Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology signed a joint declaration with NASA on Friday to cooperate in the U.S.-led Artemis manned lunar probe project.

In the statement, the two sides confirmed their intention to “develop arrangements” to give Japan opportunities to put its crew on the moon under the project, in which Tokyo declared its participation last year.

“We’ve taken a big step toward the first-ever landing of Japanese on the moon,” minister Koichi Hagiuda told a news conference after a Cabinet meeting.

Prior to that, a signing ceremony was held over a videoconferencing system at the ministry.

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine expressed excitement at Japan’s participation in the multinational project, noting the country’s technological competence.

“We hope to use today’s declaration as an opportunity to accelerate the two countries’ cooperation toward lunar exploration,” Hagiuda replied.

The Artemis project seeks to build the Gateway, a manned space station, in lunar orbit through multinational cooperation.

The base will be used to land U.S. astronauts on the moon by 2024, survey the lunar surface and conduct experiments for future expeditions to Mars.

The statement confirmed Japan’s contribution of technologies such as batteries and environmental control systems for the Habitation and Logistics Outpost on the Gateway, to be launched 2023, as well as for the International Habitation Module to be constructed later.

It also said that details regarding the specific contributions and the number of Japanese astronauts to be stationed on the Gateway will be decided in an international agreement on the project, to be drawn up at a later date.

The ministry and NASA also decided to sign an agreement to set the details regarding opportunities to put Japanese crew on the lunar surface.

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