First Asian on the Moon will be a Japanese astronaut

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First Asian on the Moon will be a Japanese astronaut

"Two Japanese astronauts will join future American missions, and one will become the first non-American ever to land on the Moon," Biden said in a press conference with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida.

Kishida hailed the announcement as a "huge achievement" and announced that Japan would in return supply a rover for the program.

NASA's Artemis program seeks to return humans to the Moon for the first time in over 50 years, and to build a sustained lunar presence ahead of potential missions to Mars.

Between 1969 and 1972, the US Apollo program saw 12 Americans -- all white men -- walk on the Moon.

NASA previously announced that the Artemis program would see the first woman and the first person of color land on the Moon.


"America will no longer walk on the Moon alone," NASA chief Bill Nelson said in a video published on social media.

"Diplomacy is good for discovery. And discovery is good for diplomacy," he added.

Tokyo and Washington have worked together in the space sector for years, notably collaborating on operations at the International Space Station (ISS).

In a joint media release, the United States and Japan clarified that a Japanese national would land on the Moon "assuming important benchmarks are achieved," without clarifying further.

The lunar rover provided by Japan in return will be pressurised, meaning astronauts can travel farther and work for longer periods on the lunar surface, according to the statement.

It added that the pressurised rover will accommodate two astronauts in the "mobile habitat and laboratory" for up to 30 days as they explore the area near the lunar South Pole.

NASA currently plans to use the rover on the future Artemis 7 mission, followed by subsequent missions over a 10-year lifespan.

The European Space Agency (ESA) has three seats reserved for future Artemis missions in exchange for technological contributions to the program.

However, it is still unclear whether European astronauts will have the chance to step foot on the Moon or just fly around it.

The Artemis space program was inaugurated in 2022 with Artemis 1, which successfully flew an uncrewed vessel around the Moon.

Artemis 2 is planned for 2025 and will send four astronauts around the Moon without landing. The crew will consist of three Americans and a Canadian, who are currently in training.

The first crewed landing on the Moon will be Artemis 3, currently scheduled for Sept 2026. NASA has not yet announced who will take part in the mission. China meanwhile has said it seeks to put humans on the Moon by 2030.
 
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