Japan will recruit a group of potential astronauts in 2021 with an eye on sending them to outer space as part of a U.S.-led lunar exploration project, the first time the nation has conducted an intake since 2008, the science minister said Friday.

Minister Koichi Hagiuda said in a news conference the government will ask for applications around next fall, with Tokyo aiming to have a Japanese national on the moon for the first time in the latter half of the 2020s.

Although Japan has recruited talent in the field approximately every decade or so since 1983, the education, culture, sports, science and technology minister said, "We will solicit applications around every five years from now on to maintain a group of astronauts (in readiness)."