NASA and Japan sign agreement on lunar rover

April 15, 2024
Japan will design, develop, and operate a pressurized rover for crewed and uncrewed exploration on the Moon.

WASHINGTON - Bill Nelson, administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), and Japan's Minister of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) Masahito Moriyama have signed an agreement to advance human exploration of the Moon. Japan will design, develop, and operate a pressurized rover for crewed and uncrewed exploration on the Moon. NASA will provide the launch and delivery of the rover to the Moon and two opportunities for Japanese astronauts to travel to the lunar surface.

An enclosed and pressurized rover will enable astronauts to travel farther and conduct science in geographically diverse areas by serving as a mobile habitat and laboratory for the astronauts to live and work for extended periods. It will be able to accommodate two astronauts for up to 30 days as they traverse the area near the lunar South Pole. NASA currently plans to use the pressurized rover on Artemis VII and subsequent missions over an approximate 10-year lifespan.

President Biden and Prime Minister Kishida also announced "a shared goal for a Japanese national to be the first non-American astronaut to land on the Moon on a future Artemis mission, assuming important benchmarks are achieved."

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The arrangement falls under the "Framework Agreement Between the Government of Japan and the Government of the United States of America for Cooperation in Space Exploration and Use of Outer Space, Including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies, For Peaceful Purposes," which was signed in January 2023 and recognizes the nations' mutual interest in peaceful exploration.

The framework agreement facilitates a broad swath of joint activities between the countries, including space science, Earth science, space operations and exploration, aeronautical science and technology, space technology, space transportation, safety, mission assurance, and more. In addition to the agreement for lunar surface exploration, the partners will build on the framework agreement with future agreements for Japan's participation in NASA's Dragonfly mission and the Nancy Grace Roman Space Telescope. The U.S. and Japan also intend to collaborate on JAXA's Next-generation Solar-observing Satellite, SOLAR-C, which will investigate the mysteries of solar atmospheres by conducting observations of ultraviolet radiation from the Sun.

"It was an honor to sign the historic implementing arrangement that will be long remembered as the symbol of the new era of Japan-U.S. partnership for the lunar exploration," said Moriyama. "Under the partnership stronger than ever, we will drive the initiative together with JAXA, including the development of the pressurized rover that vastly extends the exploration capability on the lunar surface, to realize the shared goal for Japanese and American astronauts to, together, explore the moon."

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