Japan joins NASA in mission to land humans on the Moon in 2024

Japan has announced plans to help NASA in its effort to return humans to the Moon in 2024. The work will take place under NASA's Artemis program, one of multiple efforts that will pave the way for an eventual human trip to Mars. Under its participation, Japan's Cabinet Office revealed that it will help build the orbital outpost intended to serve as a base for astronauts.

According to The Japan Times, the nation's space policy committee announced on Thursday that Japan will participate in NASA's 2024 Moon mission. As part of its involvement, Japan will provide 'technical cooperation' specifically on the construction of the orbital outpost that will eventually serve as a base for astronauts under the Artemis program.

However, the committee hasn't yet decided whether Japan will also support the construction of the 'Gateway,' also called the Lunar Orbital Platform, which will be a large space station that'll feature science labs, housing quarters, and more. Officials cite concerns over how much the Gateway's construction is anticipated to cost, though a final decision hasn't been made.

NASA's upcoming work with private American space companies is anticipated to usher in a new era of lunar exploration, though the Moon is only a stepping stone to the eventual goal: Mars. The Artemis program will include manned and unmanned missions to the lunar surface over coming years.

Japan joins Canada in announcing participation in the effort. As a result of its involvement, the committee expressed expectations that Japanese astronauts will get to travel to the Moon, though details on these matters haven't been worked out at this time. Assuming the nation decides to offer support beyond 2024, the committee said Japan will use its HTV-X to send cargo supplies to the Gateway.