Japan and the US Forge New Frontiers in Space

Written by Camilla Jessen

Apr.11 - 2024 10:16 AM CET

Photo: Shutterstock.com
Photo: Shutterstock.com
Japanese astronaut set to be the first non-American to walk on the Moon.

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A Japanese astronaut will make history as the first non-American to set foot on the Moon as part of NASA's forthcoming Artemis missions. This announcement was made during a state visit by Prime Minister Fumio Kishida to the United States, as Washington seeks to strengthen ties with its key Asian ally.

Strengthening Ties Through Space Exploration

During a press conference with President Joe Biden on Wednesday, 10 April, it was revealed that two Japanese astronauts would join the American missions under NASA's Artemis program, with one astronaut making history by setting foot on the lunar surface.

“Two Japanese astronauts will join future American missions, and one will become the first non-American ever to land on the Moon,” President Biden remarked, as reported by Euractiv.

The collaboration between Japan and the United States in space exploration marks a new chapter in their longstanding partnership.

Prime Minister Kishida hailed this development as a "huge achievement" and announced Japan's contribution of a pressurized rover to the Artemis program.

The Artemis Program

NASA's Artemis program is set to mark humanity's return to the Moon for the first time in over fifty years, aiming to establish a sustained presence that will lay the groundwork for future Mars missions. This initiative seeks to make lunar exploration more inclusive by planning to send the first woman and the first person of color to the Moon.

"America will no longer walk on the Moon alone," declared NASA chief Bill Nelson.

Scheduled for 2026, the milestone mission, Artemis 3, will renew human exploration of the lunar surface. Meanwhile, China has ambitions to conduct its manned lunar missions by 2030, heralding a new era in space exploration.

Japan's Role and Contributions

The space collaboration between Tokyo and Washington is longstanding, with both nations having cooperated on initiatives like the International Space Station (ISS).

This year, Japan showcased its lunar expedition capabilities by successfully landing the SLIM spacecraft on the Moon, joining the ranks of only five countries to accomplish such a feat.

The forthcoming Japanese rover, envisioned as a "mobile habitat and laboratory," will facilitate extended exploration of the lunar South Pole by astronauts.

European Ambitions in Lunar Exploration

The European Space Agency (ESA) has secured three seats on future Artemis missions. However, discussions are ongoing regarding the specifics of European astronauts' roles, whether it be landing on or orbiting the Moon.

ESA's involvement, highlighted by its technological contributions, underscores Europe's proactive participation in this global project, though the particulars of their engagement are still being defined.

The Artemis journey began with Artemis 1 in 2022, completing a successful unmanned lunar orbit.

Artemis 2 will follow, orbiting the Moon with a crew comprising three Americans and one Canadian, paving the way for the groundbreaking Artemis 3 mission.

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