Japan announces plans to put its own astronaut on the moon

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA — the country's equivalent of NASA) announced earlier this week that it was developing plans to put a man on the moon by the year 2030. While the proposal is yet to be approved by the nation's government, if successful it will be the first time a Japanese astronaut is sent on a mission beyond the International Space Station.

Of course, this doesn't mean Japan is planning to build and launch its own rocket all on its own. Instead JAXA says it wants to contribute to a NASA-led, multinational mission to build a new space station within the moon's orbit. With the mission scheduled to begin in 2025, Japan hopes that contributing its own cutting-edge technology will help it secure its own spot on the station.

JAXA will present a more formal blueprint of its plans to the government sometime next year, but the idea is that once Japan has a place on the new space station, it will lead to eventually putting one of its astronauts on the moon's surface.

This announcement is seen by some as Japan's entry into the "Asian space race," with several nearby countries also developing ambitious space missions. China, for example, revealed last year its plans to land a rover on Mars by the year 2020, followed by its own manned mission to the moon. In 2014, India launched its own Mars probe, and in 2018 it plans to launch its second unmanned lunar mission.