Japan will collaborate with a US-led project to build a new space station, which will be orbiting the moon.
The project, which also has Russia as one of the collaborators, is expected to be completed in the 2020s. The collaboration will give Japan a chance to send its own astronauts for the first time to the lunar surface.
Japan To Collaborate On New Space Station
“Areas of activity for human beings (in space), including development around the moon, have expanded very much,” Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said during a meeting of the Japanese government members. “We will accelerate discussions of international probing of space by strengthening cooperation with the United States and others.”
Japan approved the plan after the prime minister and U.S. President Donald Trump came to an agreement during their November summit talks to foster space exploration collaboration. The nation also wants to maintain a strong stance in the arena of space development.
The prime minister’s announcement has come just after Trump announced on Monday that he would be directing the U.S. space agency to send astronauts to the moon again, as a precursor to laying a foundation for sending a crewed Mars mission.
The last astronauts who went to the moon in 1969 included Neil Armstrong, who became the first person to walk on its surface. The new moon mission’s goal would include a long-term lunar surface exploration and use.
The Trump government has acknowledged that it will work with the private industry and other countries to send crewed missions to the moon and develop technology and innovations for manned probes of Mars and other places in the solar system.
Deep Space Gateway
The first phase of the project will be to build a crewed spaceport in lunar orbit, which will serve as the gateway to the lunar surface and deep space. It will have a small habitat to extend crew time, a power bus, an airlock, and docking capability. The spaceport will be serviced by logistics modules to enable research.
The three primary elements of the gateway would take advantage of Orion Spacecraft’s crewed deep space capability and the cargo capacity of the Space Launch System.
“I envision different partners, both international and commercial, contributing to the gateway and using it in a variety of ways with a system that can move to different orbits to enable a variety of missions,” said William Gerstenmaier of NASA. “The gateway could move to support robotic or partner missions to the surface of the moon, or to a high lunar orbit to support missions departing from the gateway to other destinations in the solar system.”