Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Japan to Extend ISS Mission Until 2024

U.S. Ambassador Caroline Kennedy, space policy minister Aiko Shimajiri, Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida and Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Minister Hiroshi Hase, right to left, shake hands after signing the agreement. Credit: The Yomiuri Shimbun

Japan decided Tuesday to extend its participation in the International Space Station program by four years until 2024. The Japanese and U.S. governments signed an agreement on the matter the same day. At a signing ceremony, U.S. Ambassador to Japan Caroline Kennedy stressed Japan’s participation is indispensable to the ISS program. According to the agreement, Tokyo and Washington will develop a collaboration program for ISS operations at least through 2024.

They decided to mutually use data and facilities such as the Japanese experiment module “Kibo,” promote joint research projects, and expand opportunities for developing countries to conduct experiments at the ISS.

Japan and the United States also agreed to develop technology to remove space debris by utilizing Japan’s “Kounotori” unmanned transfer vehicle.

"Japan decided to extend its participation in the ISS operations until 2024. Through operations and utilizations of the Japanese Experiment Module 'Kibo' and the cargo transporter to the ISS 'Kounotori', the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) will responsibly produce commensurate achievements from the extended operations," said JAXA President Naoki Okumura.

In addition to the two countries, Russia, Canada and Europe participate in the ISS program.

“We are delighted Japan has agreed to extend our long and fruitful collaboration aboard the International Space Station through at least 2024. The station’s success is due to the ingenuity and cooperation of many nations, and it is our first stop on the journey to Mars. Japan’s Kibo laboratory, launches of cargo, outstanding crew members and innovative approach to the future of human spaceflight have contributed greatly to the station’s success. We look forward to our continued work together to generate even greater benefits for humanity aboard this unprecedented, world-class facility,” said NASA Administrator Charles Bolden.

Astronauts have stayed in the station since November 2000.

Initially, the International Space Station project was scheduled to end in 2016, but it has been extended until 2020.

In January 2014, the Obama Administration announced the United States was committed to extending operations of the International Space Station (ISS) through at least 2024. The commitment represents the second time in seven years the administration has led the partnership in extending the life of the ISS.

Since then, Russia and Canada have made similar commitments, and ESA (European Space Agency) is moving the station extension proposal through its ministerial-level approval process.

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