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Japan announces moon program

April 6, 2005

Japan said it would decide within 10 years whether it would pursue its moon program on its own, or if it would team up with other nations.

Japan announced on Wednesday a program to send astronauts to the moon by 2025. The plan calls for the establishment of a moon base that would be operated by Japanese astronauts and robots.

"Until now, the question has been, 'Can Japan develop its own manned spaceship?' We will know the answer in another 10 years," JAXA Chairman Keiji Tachikawa told the Associated Press.

The plan includes the development of robots and nanotechnology, and calls for the design of a space vehicle to carry passengers and cargo to the moon. The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) asked for a budget increase to about US$2.6 billion a year to fund the program.

Aerospace professor Taketoshi Hibiya, who works at the Tokyo Metropolitan Institute of Technology, questioned the value of going to the moon.

No country has sent a manned mission to the moon since the Apollo program of the 1960s and 1970s.

"If you are hoping to exploit energy resources for example, the question is whether you gain more energy than you expend getting to the moon and back," Hibiya told Reuters. "As scientists, we want to experiment with everything, including manned flight, if we can get the money," he said. "Unfortunately, the country's budget is in a bad way at the moment."

Japan is running a national debt of 751 trillion yen (US$6.94 trillion).

Japan said it would decide within 10 years whether it would pursue its moon program on its own, or if it would team up with other nations.

No country has sent a manned mission to the moon since the Apollo program of the 1960s and 1970s. China and Russia are both planning moon programs of their own. China plans to send a satellite to the moon in 2007. Russia has a plan to send personnel to the moon sometime between 2015-2020 as part of a larger program to one day send a mission to Mars.

JAXA's next mission will survey the moon with the SELENE probe. The mission was scheduled to launch this year, but has been delayed for unknown reasons.

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