Japan is moving ahead with its plan to join NASA’s new project that aims to build a space station in the orbit of the moon. The country believes this project would provide it a chance to send a Japanese astronaut to the moon’s surface for the first time in history. For this project, Japan is expected to provide an unmanned cargo vehicle as well as the technology to save astronauts from harmful space radiation.
According to the Japan Times, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe approved the plan on Tuesday in a meeting with senior scientists and government officials. Abe also expressed his government’s intent to boost cooperation with the U.S. and other countries in space exploration field.
In September, the Russian government had also revealed that it is joining NASA in moon-orbiting space station project.
According to the South China Morning Post, NASA plans to use the proposed space station as a base for future manned missions to the moon and Mars. The concept, described as “deep space gateway” is currently in its initial stage, although NASA wants to complete this project in the 2020’s. According to NASA, this “deep space gateway” will provide astronauts an opportunity to experience extended time in space, while being close to the planet Earth. After this lunar space station is completed, it would become easy for the American space agency to build a lunar base to provide a staging area for deep space missions.
On Monday, President Trump signed “Space Policy Directive 1,” which asks NASA to work on missions to send American astronauts to the moon. In this new directive, Trump eliminated the deadlines that former president Obama had established for NASA to achieve “the far-reaching exploration milestones.”
“This time, we will not only plant our flag and leave our footprint, we will establish a foundation for an eventual mission to Mars,” President Trump said.
"We're dreaming big." – @POTUS announced that the National Space Council approved a recommendation to return @NASA_Astronauts to the Moon, laying a foundation for trips to Mars and beyond. pic.twitter.com/uaoYVtNZsL
— NASA Moon (@NASAMoon) December 11, 2017
However, some experts believe that NASA’s budget needs to be substantially increased to enable the space agency to complete the future space missions in time.
It has been almost 44 years since a human walked on the lunar surface. US astronaut Neil Armstrong was the first man to walk on the moon. He landed on the lunar surface on July 20, 1969, during Apollo 11 mission. No human has walked on the surface of the moon since NASA’s last moon landing mission in 1972.
The space race has intensified in the past one decade, and many countries have now set their eyes on the moon. In June, China said it was making “preliminary” preparations to land a Chinese astronaut to the lunar surface. India is also working on an ambitious moon mission and is all set to launch its first moon rover mission in the first half of next year.