Sunday, July 2, 2017

Japan Plans to Land Astronauts on Moon Around 2030

An abnormally large full moon known as a 'supermoon' rises next to the tip of Tokyo Skytree in Sumida Ward on Sept. 28, 2015. Credit: KYODO

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) revealed its ambitious plan for a Japanese astronaut to set foot on the moon around 2030. This is the first time JAXA has publicly explored sending astronauts anywhere beyond the International Space Station, a JAXA spokeswoman said Friday.

The idea is to first join a NASA-led mission in 2025 to build a space station in the moon’s orbit — part of a longer-term effort by NASA to reach Mars.

Tokyo hopes that contributing to the multinational mission and sharing Japanese technology will land it a coveted spot at the station, from which it could eventually put an astronaut on the moon, the spokeswoman said.

The plan was presented to an education ministry panel this week and a more formal blueprint is expected next year, according to NHK.

China and India are already looking to expand their ambitious space programs.

In November, China’s Shenzhou-11 spacecraft returned to Earth, bringing home two astronauts from the rising power’s longest orbital mission ever.

Beijing has also unveiled illustrations of a Mars probe and rover it aims to send to the red planet at the end of the decade.

NASA and other global space agencies are working hard on sending astronauts to Mars by the 2030s. In March, Congress passed a bill — signed by President Donald Trump — directing NASA to send a manned mission to Mars in 2033.

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