Although NASA may have trouble returning to the moon by 2024, the US space agency is doing its best to explore the lunar surface by announcing a formal partnership with Japan for the lunar gateway.
NASA and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) have officially announced an agreement under which JAXA will contribute to the Gateway by providing technical expertise, life support devices and an environmental control system, batteries, thermal control components and images.
“We are honored to announce this latest agreement with Japan to support long-term human research on and around the moon as part of Artemis’ program,”
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A memorandum of understanding was signed between NASA and Japan in late 2020, the Japanese Foreign Ministry said.
In addition, the new agreement will allow Japanese astronauts to gain access to the gateway, which NASA says “will be determined after further discussions and documented in a future agreement.”
“Using the opportunities that international partners contribute to the Gateway will be key to providing access to the lunar surface,” added Cathy Luders, associate administrator of the NASA Headquarters Mission for Human Research and Operations. “We are pleased to move forward in these innovative efforts with Japan and our other partners.”
The gateway, which is approximately one-sixth the size of the International Space Station, will act as a “meeting point” for astronauts traveling to lunar orbit aboard the Orion spacecraft before heading to low-moon orbit and eventually surface. It will be used for both robotic and human expeditions to the moon and Mars.
“The capabilities provided by Japan are critical to providing an internal gateway environment that allows our crews to live and work for longer periods of time,” said Dan Hartman, gateway program manager at the Johnson Space Center. of NASA in Houston. “Life support systems from Japan can carry out longer missions for Artemis crews with reduced logistics requirements.”
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Japan becomes the third international partner to commit to Gateway. In October 2020, NASA and the European Space Agency signed a cooperation agreement on the gateway. A month later, the United States and Canada also signed a cooperation agreement at the lunar outpost.
The gateway will be used as a base for NASA’s Artemis lunar exploration program. In 2019, NASA revealed its vision for the lunar landing Artemis, which will return American astronauts to the lunar surface.
The Artemis program, the successor to the Apollo program, is remarkable for a number of reasons, including its goal of sending the first woman to land on the lunar surface and establishing a sustainable human presence on Earth’s natural satellite.
To date, only 12 people, all Americans, have landed on the moon. The last NASA astronaut to set foot on the moon was Apollo 17 mission commander Gene Sernan on December 14, 1972.
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