April 3, 2009

Japan To Send Walking Robot To The Moon By 2020

Japan is seeking to put a walking robot on the moon by 2020, followed by a joint mission with astronauts, a Cabinet-level government working group said on Friday.

Additional details about the initiative, such as the size of the budget and the scope of new technologies involved,  will be solidified within the next two years, according to Japan's Strategic Headquarters for Space Development.

The group had previously outlined a broad framework for Japan's future space strategy, of which the robot's lunar mission will be a part. The framework is expected to be finalized next month, after the public has an opportunity to comment on the projects.  Joint exploration of the moon with both robots and astronauts is also under consideration.

The group has also advised research into military satellites, including an early warning system to detect ballistic missile launches and systems to detect and analyze radio waves in space.  Other recommendations include using space research to promote diplomacy with other nations and developing an advanced satellite to forecast and track natural disasters.

The Strategic Headquarters was formed last year by a law enacted to foster Japan's space technology and exploration.  That law permits Japan, which has a mainly peaceful constitution, to use space for military defense.

Friday's proposal coincides with North Korea's preparations to launch a multistage rocket over Japan.  Although Pyongyang maintains it is launching a communications satellite,  Japan suspects the communist country, which has admitted it has nuclear weapons, is instead testing long-range missile technology.

Japan has long been among the world's leaders in the field of space technology, launching its first satellite in 1970.   In January, the nation used one of its rockets to launch the first satellite to track global greenhouse gases as a tool to help monitor global warming.

However, Japan has been overshadowed in recent years by China, which is aggressively pushing its own space initiatives.


Image Credit: NASA


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Japan's Strategic Headquarters for Space Development