WASHINGTON — The Japanese government plans to join NASA in its Artemis program of lunar exploration, although the details about how it will contribute remain to be worked out.
In an Oct. 18 statement posted on Twitter, the office of Japanese Prime Minister Shinz? Abe said that his government's Strategic Headquarters for National Space Policy had decided the country would join NASA in its plans to return humans to the moon, one that could lead to Japanese astronauts one day setting foot there.
"At long last, Japan too will turn over a new page leading to lunar and space exploration," Abe said in an English-language statement. "Today, we decided on a policy of participating in the U.S.'s challenging new venture, as an ally connected to the U.S. by strong bonds."
In a separate Japanese-language document, the government outline several reasons for participating in the NASA-led effort, including diplomacy and security, international competitiveness, commercial opportunities and support for later missions to Mars.
"The program aims at maintaining a space station orbiting the moon, manned exploration of the lunar surface, and other undertakings, and Mars and other destinations are also in our sights," Abe's office said.
The Japanese statement said Japan would work with NASA and other partners to coordinate its participation in several ways. That includes offering technologies that could support the early lunar Gateway, providing logistics services with its next-generation HTV-X cargo vehicle, sharing data used for the selection of lunar landing sites and other lunar transportation services.
The statement didn't explicitly state whether Japan was still interested in contributing elements to the lunar Gateway. In previous statements by the Multilateral Coordination Board, which oversees issues regarding the International Space Station, the Japanese space agency JAXA proposed "habitation functions" for the Gateway's second phase, after the initial return to the lunar surface in 2024.
Japan becomes the second major spacefaring nation to announce its intent to cooperate on Artemis. In February, Canada announced it would develop a robotic arm for the Gateway, spending about $1.5 billion over the next 24 years.