Japan is considering putting a robot on the moon by 2020 and an astronaut by 2030, a report from a government office showed on Friday, amid fears that the country will be left behind in Asia’s space race.
The plans follow China’s first space walk and India’s launch of their first unmanned moon mission last year. Beijing officials have said that China is looking to eventually put astronauts on the moon, though the government has not revealed any schedule.
The robot and the astronaut would probe the moon to see how its resources could be used, the report showed.
Japan’s space program was in tatters in the late 1990s and early 2000s after unsuccessful rocket launches, but it successfully launched its first lunar explorer in 2007. It has sent six astronauts to space, all through international missions.
The Soviet Union, United States and China are the only countries that have put people in space with their own rockets.
Amid worries about a regional space race and North Korea’s nuclear and missile capabilities, Japan introduced a new space law last year that allows military use of space, ending a decades-old pacifist policy.
The law, which allows the military to launch its own satellites for spying and warn of missile launches but rules out offensive weapons in space, opened ways for the nation’s space industry to compete globally.