Japan aims to have 1st Japanese astronaut land on moon in late 2020s

The Yomiuri Shimbun

Japan will aim to put its first astronaut on the moon in the latter half of 2020s, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida announced Tuesday at a meeting of the government body dealing with space policy.

The mission was included in the revised Basic Plan on Space Policy compiled by the Strategic Headquarters for National Space Policy, of which Kishida is the head. The government hopes to solidify its position as an advanced nation in space development through manned lunar exploration following the United States.

The United States plans a manned mission to the moon as early as 2025 in a program termed “Artemis.” Japan announced its participation in the U.S.-led manned lunar exploration program, and will contribute by developing a new type of unmanned cargo ship to transport supplies to the Gateway, a manned outpost orbiting the moon, as well as a lunar rover.

The plan calls for a Japanese astronaut to land on the lunar surface via a module launched from the Gateway.

The project schedule for the Basic Plan on Space Policy is revised annually based on international circumstances and other factors. For the first time, the revised version incorporates a time frame for a moon landing by a Japanese astronaut, setting a target for “the latter half of the 2020s.” It states the astronaut will be “the first outside of Americans.”

While making clear Japan’s strong commitment both at home and abroad, the government plans to contribute to the U.S.-led program in a bid to realize an envisaged lunar landing as soon as possible.

European and Canadian space agencies are also participating in the Artemis program, aiming for a moon landing by their astronauts.

The project schedule also calls for the establishment of Japan’s own observation network using a constellation of small satellites by the end of fiscal 2025.

It also includes a plan to realize a space solar power system that can generate electricity unaffected by weather, and verify by around fiscal 2025 the technology for transmitting electricity from space to the ground.

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency recently started recruiting new Japanese astronauts for the first time in 13 years, with those selected possibly getting the chance to land on the moon.