Five years from now, astronauts from Japan are going to have a rare opportunity to walk on the moon.

Japanese astronauts these days have been busy making trips to space stations and brightening everyone’s days with cute camera drones, but a recent statement by the president of the United States has changed everything concerning their future.

In a joint news conference with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on 27 May, U.S. President Donald Trump officially announced that the U.S. and Japan will dramatically increase their cooperation in human space exploration.

“Japan will join our mission to send U.S. astronauts to space. We’ll be going to the moon. We’ll be going to Mars very soon. It’s very exciting. And from a military standpoint, there is nothing more important right now than space,” said Trump.

▼ Fantastic news for the folks at the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA).

The statement came amid rising tensions between China and the U.S. in a technological race for dominance beyond Earth’s atmosphere, which may prove to be a catalyst for JAXA’s own objectives in space exploration.

NASA is already speeding up work on a multi-phase mission called the “Artemis” program, an ambitious project to be carried out over the next few years that will set up an orbiting mini-station and culminate in astronauts walking on lunar soil by 2024.

▼ This will mark the first time Japanese astronauts set foot on Earth’s bright and not-too-distant neighbor.

▼ NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine has confirmed that the joint effort
will extend past Artemis and into Mars.

Outer space has a special place in many Japanese people’s hearts, and netizens were no less enthusiastic about the collaboration:

“JAXA’s contributions to space exploration must have caught NASA’s attention. Good work, JAXA.”
“This is so exciting! JAXA is awesome!”
“JAXA and NASA might be shaking hands with smiles on their faces, but below the surface they’re kicking each other like it’s a competition. Not a bad thing though.”

One netizen chimed in to remind everyone that NASA owes Japan much for its continued success in the space industry:

“NASA is being supported by Japan-made equipment. Specialized parts that can’t be made in America are provided by Japan and Germany. Even stuff supplied by Germany is first produced in Japan. Our country contributes equipment not made anywhere else in the world. I remembered Shingo Katori interviewing NASA employees and finding out that 70 percent of parts were produced in America, while Japan and Germany make up the remaining 30 percent. Without these two supporting countries, NASA would not be at the forefront of technology today.”

Humans last walked the moon in 1972, marking an extraordinary combination of cutting-edge technology and human achievement. In a few years time, Japanese astronauts will get to repeat that feat of stepping onto lunar soil with Earth cheering them on. If all goes well, perhaps one day they could even build a huge moving Gundam there and live out their wildest robot dreams.

Source: White House, Bloomberg, The Japan Times, Yurukuyaru
Top image: Pakutaso
Insert images: Pakutaso (1, 2)

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