NASA, Japan Consider Joint Crewed Moon Missions

Hiroshi Yamakawa, president of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, and NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine signed a statement on lunar exploration on Sept. 24, 2019, in Tokyo.
Hiroshi Yamakawa, president of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, and NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine signed a statement on lunar exploration on Sept. 24, 2019, in Tokyo. (Image credit: NASA/Matt Rydin)

Japan may join NASA in the American agency's push to bring humans to the moon, NASA said in a statement.

If the two agencies partner on missions, Japan may assist with NASA's missions on the Gateway — a lunar space station — and, perhaps, with astronaut excursions on the surface. President Donald Trump's administration has tasked NASA to land humans on the moon again by 2024.

In exchange, NASA may provide a spot for Japanese cubesats on the first NASA Artemis mission. Artemis I will see an uncrewed spacecraft loop around the moon before returning to Earth in a flight scheduled for no earlier than mid-2020. NASA may also collaborate on a future Japanese robotic mission known as Smart Lander for Investigating the Moon (SLIM), which will be trying techniques for pinpoint landings.

Related: Tiny Satellites Launch From Space Station (Photos)

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine signed a joint statement on cooperation on lunar exploration on Sept. 24 with Hiroshi Yamakawa, president of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA).

"The moon is the first major step to putting astronauts on Mars," Bridenstine said in a statement. "Expanding collaboration between NASA and JAXA to advance human lunar surface activities ultimately will lead to further exploration of Mars — something that will benefit not only our two countries, but all of humanity."

Japan and NASA are already partners on several missions, including the ongoing crewed International Space Station program. Japan has sent several astronauts to the orbiting complex. It has also sent the station's Kibo module, a robotic arm, a small satellite-launching facility and numerous cargo ships — not to mention experiments and equipment.  

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Elizabeth Howell
Staff Writer, Spaceflight

Elizabeth Howell (she/her), Ph.D., is a staff writer in the spaceflight channel since 2022 covering diversity, education and gaming as well. She was contributing writer for for 10 years before joining full-time. Elizabeth's reporting includes multiple exclusives with the White House and Office of the Vice-President of the United States, an exclusive conversation with aspiring space tourist (and NSYNC bassist) Lance Bass, speaking several times with the International Space Station, witnessing five human spaceflight launches on two continents, flying parabolic, working inside a spacesuit, and participating in a simulated Mars mission. Her latest book, "Why Am I Taller?", is co-written with astronaut Dave Williams. Elizabeth holds a Ph.D. and M.Sc. in Space Studies from the University of North Dakota, a Bachelor of Journalism from Canada's Carleton University and a Bachelor of History from Canada's Athabasca University. Elizabeth is also a post-secondary instructor in communications and science at several institutions since 2015; her experience includes developing and teaching an astronomy course at Canada's Algonquin College (with Indigenous content as well) to more than 1,000 students since 2020. Elizabeth first got interested in space after watching the movie Apollo 13 in 1996, and still wants to be an astronaut someday. Mastodon: