Japan aims for station on the moon in 2025
TOKYO - Japan's space agency, fresh from its first satellite launch since a 2003 failure, aims to put a manned station on the moon in 2025 and to set up a satellite disaster alert system, an official said.
"We will include it as one of the future goals in our new long-term vision, which we are going to submit with the government's Space Activity Commission by the end of March," said an official with Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency.
By 2015, the space agency also wants to establish a system that would transmit disaster information via satellites to mobile telephones on Earth, he said.
"We are still compiling our long-term vision. There are many things we want to include," said the official, asking not to be named.
The official was responding to a report by the Mainichi Shimbun, which said Japan planned to develop a robot to explore the moon in five years and within 10 years the technology to let humans stay on the moon for extended periods.
In 20 years, it will start development of the space station to be built on the moon to conduct scientific research, the Mainichi said.
To realize the goal, the agency aims to develop Japan's own manned space craft, similar to the Space Shuttle of the United States, the Mainichi said.
The official of the space agency declined to discuss details of the agency's plan, but said the Mainichi report "was not necessarily all wrong."
The aggressive goals for Japan's space projects followed the successful launch on Saturday of the domestically designed H-2A rocket, which sent into space a 16.3 billion-yen (155 million-dollar) satellite which will forecast weather and navigate aircraft.
The success restored the confidence of many Japanese space officials, whose program has been hit by setbacks despite the nation's reputation as a hi-tech power.
In November 2003, the previous H-2A, carrying a satellite to spy on North Korea, had to be destroyed 10 minutes after liftoff when one of two rocket boosters failed to separate.
The humiliation came one month after China became the third country after the United States and the former Soviet Union to put a human in space, amid signs of a resurgent space race.
The United States is planning a lunar orbiter by 2008 to be followed the next year by a landing mission. By 2015 it plans to put a person on the moon, the first since another American, Eugene Cernan, on December 11, 1972.
US President George W. Bush has set the goal of a manned mission to Mars by 2020.
The European Space Agency also plans to launch an orbiter to the moon by 2008 and a second mission, a lander, in 2009 or 2010 to be followed by a human flight in 2020.
China has vowed to launch an unmanned lunar exploration craft before 2007, with a goal of landing a spacecraft on the moon in 2010.
India, which often compares and contrasts its progress to that of China, has scheduled its own lunar mission for 2007 and, if successful, wants another one by 2015.
The Soviet Union in 1959 was the first country to complete a moon orbit. But cash-strapped Russia has not launched a planetary mission since 1996.
The Russians hope to launch their next unmanned mission in 2009 to land on Phobos, a moon orbiting Mars.