Japan has announced that it will put a man on the moon by 2030.
The mission was proposed by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency and is the nation's first planned space mission beyond the International Space Station. A spokesperson for JAXA has said that the mission will be an international one due to the cost of sending a Japanese rocket. Instead, JAXA will contribute to an international effort and work to secure a spot on the lunar probe.
A spokesperson for JAXA has said that the organization expects to unveil its plans for the mission in time for the Japan's International Space Exploration Forum in March 2018.
History of Japan's Space Program
While this attempt will mark Japan's first efforts at a lunar landing, Japan's history of space exploration dates back to 1970, when it launched its first orbiting satellite. From there, the nation has launched multiple satellites over the years.
Aside from satellites and sending astronauts to the International Space Station, JAXA and its various predecessors have launched several successful probes to the moon and other celestial bodies.
The Asian Space Race
This announcement is only the latest in a series of ambitious new space exploration programs that have been unveiled by various Asian powers. Numerous countries including China and India have announced plans that would see them expand their space exploration programs. This new era of competition is similar to the space race between the United States and the USSR, which was one of the defining features of the Cold War. However, despite the competitive nature of these programs, this incarnation of the space race lacks the overt hostility that characterized the struggle between the 20th century's great superpowers.
Aside from Japan, two of the biggest players in this race are India and China. In December 2016, China announced that it planned to send a probe to Mars by 2020. The first probe would study both the atmosphere and surface whereas the second would be tasked with collecting samples from the planet's surface. Beyond Mars, China is planning on sending probes to Jupiter and its moons. There is also talk that they are going to the moon, though no date has been set for such a mission. A representative of China's National Space Administration has said that the country aims to be one of the world's major space powers.
India has also embarked on an ambitious space program. In 2014, India launched its first Mars probe, the Mangalyaan, which was notable not only for the data it gathered but also for its low cost. The probe costs a total of $74 million, which is less than what is spent some big-budget Hollywood movies.
Beyond the obvious benefits to the nations involved in this new space race, we all stand to reap the rewards of increased investment in science and space exploration. The last space race gave us some of the most important advances of the 20th century. Who knows what this new one will bring to the table.