Illustration of Gateway in lunar orbit with contributions from international partners. (Nasa image) Illustration of Gateway in lunar orbit with contributions from international partners. (Nasa image)

TOKYO: Japan and the United States on Wednesday formally launched a plan to build a lunar orbiting outpost, a key part of a Nasa-led program to land astronauts on the Moon by 2024.

Japan will provide technical expertise in the construction of the Gateway, to be used by astronauts as a base for the Artemis lunar exploration program, under the memorandum of understanding between Japan and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration signed at the end of December, the Japanese Foreign Ministry said.

“Strengthening our international partnerships and commitments to Artemis puts humanity on a solid path to achieve our common goals of sustainable lunar exploration by the end of this decade,” Nasa Administrator Jim Bridenstine said in a press statement.

Under the agreement, Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency will provide devices for a life support and environmental control system, air-conditioning equipment and batteries for the Gateway base, which will house the living quarters, laboratories and docking ports that astronauts will use.

Through the Artemis program, also involving the European Space Agency and Canadian Space Agency, Nasa  plans to land the first woman and next man on the Moon by 2024 and establish a sustainable lunar surface exploration with its commercial and international partners by 2028.

The latest memorandum follows up on the joint declaration signed between Japan and the United States in July 2020 for cooperation on lunar exploration. The document said the two sides would aim to provide Japanese astronauts opportunities to work at the Gateway.

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