The Yomiuri Shimbun The Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry announced Friday a draft report on future international space exploration missions, expressing its intention to join a U.S. project to build a lunar spaceport in the 2020s.
The government’s Committee on National Space Policy approved the draft the same day. The government will officially draw up a revised timeline for its Basic Plan on Space Policy, which will incorporate elements of the draft, in mid-December.
Japan will offer technical support for the U.S. spaceport project, which will pave the way for the first mission by Japanese astronauts to the moon’s surface.
An expert panel, including former Ambassador to the United States Ichiro Fujisaki, compiled the draft report. It outlines several reasons for pursuing a manned mission to the moon, including the possibility of converting lunar material into rocket fuel for a future manned mission to Mars. It also noted that participation in international space missions will benefit Japan’s development of scientific technology, industrial competitiveness and national security, among other areas.
On Friday, the space committee also discussed a revised draft of the timeline for the basic plan. The draft addressed “participation in the U.S. project to build a manned base in the moon’s vicinity” and “exploration of the moon’s surface through international cooperation.”
Japan plans to develop technologies necessary for maintaining the spaceport and carrying out space exploration, including resupply capabilities for space missions and water and air purification for long stays at the spaceport. These endeavors will be decided as long-term government policy.
Japan has decided to participate in International Space Station operations through 2024. However, it is uncertain if it will participate in manned space exploration missions beyond that year.
The United States has launched a project through which a spaceport in lunar orbit will be used for lunar and Mars exploration missions and announced in October a plan to send American astronauts to the moon.