NASA and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency has signed a joint statement indicating that the two agencies are committing science and technological efforts towards NASA’s Artemis program in anticipation of the 2024 mission launch.
Artemis is NASA’s latest program that aims to send the first woman and the next man on the lunar surface by 2024. In preparation for the highly anticipated lunar mission, NASA has been racking up space agencies across the world that’s willing to participate and contribute to see its fruition.
On September 24, 2019, Dr. Hiroshi Yamakawa, JAXA president and Jim Bridenstine, Administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), had a meeting at JAXA Headquarters in Tokyo to discuss future plans and commitments that both space agencies are willing to provide to further each other’s space exploration technologies and capabilities in relation to the current Artemis program that NASA is developing.
During their meeting, both leaders acknowledged their extensive cooperation across all mission areas, and discussed future bilateral cooperation in lunar exploration, including on the International Space Station.
Mainly, the meeting was intended to officiate JAXA’s desire to expand their agency’s scientific and technological cooperation to realize sustainable exploration on the lunar surface and in the lunar vicinity in return for technical, hardware, and informational input to NASA.
The two agencies also welcomed the ongoing engagement to realize JAXA’s participation in NASA’s Artemis program and vision for the assistance of Japanese astronauts in lunar exploration.
The signed joint statement also signifies that both agencies commit that their respective stakeholders in the United States and Japan will be available to lend support, document proposals, and to conclude the necessary arrangements between their respective agencies and governments.
In the meeting, both agencies discussed several existing and foreboding missions that they could also participate in. Specifically, NASA’s participation in JAXA’s SLIM (Smart Lander for Investigating the Moon) mission and discussions regarding NASA’s potential participation in the planned JAXA-Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) Lunar Polar Exploration mission.
Additionally, President Yamakawa expressed JAXA’s potential contributions through the provision of and collaboration on pressurized crew rovers, transportation vehicles to and from the lunar surface, and In-Situ Resource Utilization technology.
On the other hand, NASA also welcomed the idea of JAZA joining Artemis Mission 1’s payloads on future CLPS (Commercial Lunar Payload Services) where JAXA will be able to add two CubeSats as a payload and will be deployed in space.
These cooperative activities will contribute to their respective lunar science and exploration priorities, and both leaders acknowledged that the acquired data from these missions will contribute to NASA’s plan to return humans to the Moon in 2024.
Most importantly, the joint statement hints at the May 2019 shared view of President Donald Trump and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to accelerate discussions on cooperation regarding lunar exploration and affirmed their mutual commitment for NASA and JAXA to collaborate in lunar research with a view toward Mars.
This month, President Trump indicated that the Moon is not a new target for human exploration, but Mars is. Thus, as been said, the Moon will serve as a midway point for the US as it attempts to reach and eventually explore the Red Planet.
The two agencies noted that these efforts build on the long history of strong cooperation between their two agencies. Notably, even before the signing of the joining statement, JAXA has also signed a joint statement along with the ISS’ international partners regarding their intent to cooperate in the construction of the Gateway—a lunar orbiter space station that NASA wants to be a way station for linear landings and deep space exploration.
In that initial joint statement, JAXA proposed to cooperate on Gateway, including habitation functions and logistics missions, utilizing the Japanese HTV-X spacecraft and H3 launch vehicle.
“Today, we have committed to continuing the close dialogue that has been the hallmark of collaboration between our two agencies,” Bridenstine said. “The Moon is the first major step to putting astronauts on Mars. 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.”