Japan has announced its intentions to send a manned mission to the surface of the moon by around 2030. The ambitious plan was presented by the Japanese Space Exploration Administration (JAXA) at an education ministry panel this week, with a more formal blueprint expected next year.
Four nations have visited the moon so far: the United States, Russia, China and India. However, only the U.S. has managed to bring an astronaut on its surface. Japan's plan will accelerate the so-called "Asian space race," with China and India developing their respective space programs.
India sent a probe to Mars on 2014 and has plans do the same on the moon next year. China, on the other hand, bared plans to put a rover on Mars by the end of the 2020s and send a man on Earth's natural satellite by 2036. It is also working on establishing a space base in orbit by 2022.
Japan, for its part, won't send an exclusively Japanese rocket to the moon, which would be prohibitively expensive. Rather, it intends to join a manned international mission to cut down on costs. The idea is to first join a NASA-led mission in 2025 to build a space station in the moon's orbit, as part of a longer-term effort to reach Mars.
Japan will contribute technology in hopes that it would be allotted a space for one of its own astronauts aboard the mission. Specifically, JAXA will provide the water and air purifying technology to protect astronauts from radiation and develop a probe to enable astronauts to move between the space station and the moon.
Before all that, however, Japan is looking into sending an unmanned probe to the moon to search for natural resources in 2022. Currently, the country's space conquest consists of sending an astronaut to the International Space Station and launching commercial satellites into orbit.