Japan Astronaut Likely to Land on Moon in U.S.-Led Program; Tokyo Aiming for Late 2020s

Courtesy of the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration
A rendering of astronauts working on the moon

WASHINGTON — A Japanese astronaut is likely to land on the moon as part of the Artemis lunar exploration program led by the United States, The Yomiuri Shimbun has learned.

Japan and the United States are making final arrangements, with Japan hoping to see one of its astronauts on the moon by the late 2020s.

So far, only U.S. astronauts have been on the moon. Japan would become just the second country to send an astronaut there.

Japan announced its participation in the Artemis program in 2019. Its activities will include supplying the HTV-X unmanned cargo transport vehicle for the planned Gateway space station and the development of a lunar rover.

Japan has been negotiating with the United States, aiming for its first landing on the moon in the late 2020s. Tokyo and Washington will establish and sign an agreement on the activities of Japanese astronauts on the moon as early as next month, according to several government sources.

Toyota Motor Corp. is playing a leading role in the development of a high-performance exploration vehicle that will enable long-term activities on the moon. Washington is offering the opportunity for at least one Japanese astronaut to land on the moon in return for Tokyo’s contribution to the space program, according to the sources.

The two countries are also negotiating for a second Japanese astronaut to also land on the moon, the sources added.

The United States aims to land Americans to the moon in 2025, the first people since the Apollo program half a century ago, and to send astronauts there once a year from 2028 on.