2 Japanese Astronauts to Land on Moon under Artemis Program; Japanese-developed Lunar Rover Also under Consideration

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
The silhouette of an airplane is seen in front of the moon in Tokyo in August 2023.

The governments of Japan and the United States are considering an agreement that would see two Japanese astronauts sent to the moon in the U.S.-led Artemis lunar exploration program, according to government sources. This would be the first time Japanese nationals would land on the moon and is expected to take place in 2028 or later.

The two sides are also considering agreeing to operate a Japanese-developed lunar rover for 10 years, the sources added.

Japan and the U.S. are expected to confirm their intention to accelerate cooperation in the space field at a bilateral summit scheduled for April 10. The agreement would then be signed by science minister Masahito Moriyama and NASA Administrator Bill Nelson.

The goals of the Artemis program are to successfully conduct the first manned flight to the moon since 1972 and establish a lunar base. The program aims to send U.S. astronauts to the surface of the moon in 2026 after ensuring the success of putting the first flight with crew onboard into lunar orbit in 2025.

Under the project, regular flights sending astronauts to the moon are planned in 2028 or later, with Japanese nationals on two of these flights. The program also envisages operating the Luna Cruiser, a pressurized rover, on the lunar surface. The rover is currently under development, mainly by Toyota Motor Corp.

In addition to the United States, Japan and European countries are participating in the Artemis program. Japan will be in charge of providing supplies to the Gateway manned space station, which will be established above the moon, as well as developing the lunar rover.

In the past, only Americans have landed on the moon. The Japanese government has set a goal of putting a Japanese person on the moon in the late 2020s.