It would seem like astronauts are eager to return to the surface of the moon again. The Japanese government will join the U.S. project which includes building a new space station that will orbit the moon, the Japan Times reports. The project is supposed to be completed during the 2020s and is an ideal chance for Japan to send its own astronauts to the surface of the moon, which would be a historic first time for that country. According to the Times, this plan was approved on Tuesday.
As Japan and China are competing over who would send the first astronaut to the surface of the moon, this project is a great opportunity for Japan to prevail over China, the South China Morning Post reports.
During a meeting of members of the Japanese government on space policy, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said that the country would “accelerate discussions of international space exploration by strengthening cooperation with the U.S. and others,” the Times reports.
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The announcement of Japan joining the U.S. project comes a few months after the Russian government announced that it would cooperate with the U.S. in order to build a space station that would orbit the moon. After the announcements, NASA stated that “it plans to expand human presence into the solar system starting in the vicinity of the moon.”
“While the deep space gateway is still in concept formulation, NASA is pleased to see growing international interest in moving into cislunar space as the next step for advancing human space exploration,” Robert Lightfoot, NASA’s acting administrator at NASA Headquarters in Washington said in NASA’s press release. “Statements such as this one signed with Roscosmos show the gateway concept as an enabler to the kind of exploration architecture that is affordable and sustainable.”
It is worth adding that the news concerning Japan joining the U.S. and Russia comes only a day after President Donald Trump announced that he wants to send American astronauts to the moon, and that he would direct NASA regarding this matter. According to Bloomberg, this directive changes the U.S. national space policy; the document can be read here.
Former President Barack Obama directed NASA to “set far-reaching exploration milestones,” which included sending “crewed missions to the moon” by 2025, and after that it included sending “humans to orbit Mars and return them safely to Earth” in the mid-2030s.
According to Bloomberg, President Trump removed Former President Obama’s deadlines that he had directed NASA to meet. Additionally, the possibility of that coming to realization is less probable without more money invested in NASA.
“I don’t think simply an order to NASA is going to do anything unless it is accompanied by a notable increase of NASA’s budget, and by notable I mean doubling or a tripling or quadrupling of NASA’s budget,” Marco Caceres, a space analyst told Bloomberg.
Nevertheless, in the future there is a possibility that astronauts will set foot on the moon once again, thanks to the project of a new space station to orbit the moon by the U.S., Russia, and now Japan.