Japan is planning a manned exploratory mission to the Moon by joining Nasa in a mission to reach the lunar surface.
The Japanese space agency (Jaxa) hopes to forge a tie-up with the Americans to build a space port near the Moon in the latter half of the 2020s. From the space station, the plan is to send Japanese astronauts to the Moon to explore it, reports The Japan News (TJN), quoting sources close to the government.
The government is set to submit a draft report on the project to a panel of experts.
Japan is said to be keen on asserting its leadership in the field of space utilisation, and by joining an international probe to the Moon the country could carry out scientific experiments while also boosting its competitiveness in the space industry. Japan already has a number of arrangements to carry out experiments aboard the ISS till 2024.
The "Deep Space Gateway" project that was announced in September this year saw Nasa and Roscosmos (the Russian space agency) come together to build a base orbiting the Moon. Japan now reportedly wants to join this project that will act as a resupply and fuel station in the vicinity of the Moon. The base will also serve as a habitat for deep space explorers, making it possible to easily explore the Moon.
Nasa is to start sending construction materials to the area, to begin assembly of the base, starting 2020. TJN notes that it will be in Japan's best interests to join the US by contributing its technological expertise to the project, specifically in docking of space ships to the station. Besides, collaboration will reduce costs.
Reports and proposals regarding future space exploration are to be submitted to Japan's Committee on National Space Policy after which a basic plan on space policy will be released in mid-December. This will include tech needed for Moon exploration.
Jaxa recently found a 50-km-long cave system on the Moon and declared that it "might be the best candidate site for future lunar bases, because of its stable thermal conditions".