New reports have surfaced that suggest the United States and Japan are currently in talks to include a Japanese astronaut on a future Artemis mission. The U.S.-led exploration program would act as a stepping stone for Japan’s first moon astronaut, giving Japan a huge leap forward in terms of its space exploration efforts.
Sources told The Japan Times that the two countries are currently in final arrangements and that the Japanese astronaut could be aboard the second Artemis mission to land on the lunar surface. Currently, NASA plans to send the first astronauts back to the lunar surface with Artemis III, by 2025 at the earliest.
This news is further solidified, too, by recent comments from U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris, who last week said that the United States intends to have an international astronaut aboard an Artemis mission and on the moon’s surface by 2029. That astronaut could very well be Japan’s first moon astronaut.
Considering how closely JAXA, the Japanese space agency, and NASA have worked together in the past, such a corresponding partnership would make sense here, too. Further, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida also noted that Japan and the U.S. are speeding up discussions. Japan will also participate in other NASA projects, including the construction of the Lunar Gateway, which is a planned outpost that will orbit the Moon.
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We’ll need to wait for final confirmation that Japan’s first moon astronaut is hopping a ride aboard an Artemis mission, but it is a partnership that makes sense based on past interactions and Japan’s continued role in ongoing space exploration missions. Perhaps 2024 will bring more news about this endeavor, and Japan can begin choosing which astronaut it intends to send to the moon’s surface for the first time.
NASA’s next Artemis mission, Artemis II, will see four astronauts from the U.S. and Canada complete a lunar flyby aboard the Orion spacecraft. That mission is currently set for a November 2024 launch. NASA hopes to be sending nearly annual trips to the moon by 2028.
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