It seems that the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) is planning to extend cooperation to NASA. It concerns two agency’s shared interest in-depth space exploration. Takuya Onishi, an astronaut of JAXA, shared the organization’s thoughts in Washington, D.C. last week.  JAXA is a partner of ISS (International Space Station). JAXA views ISS as a stepping stone in its journey to Moon and probably even Mars. Onishi joined JAXA in 2009 and has also spent a few months in the ISS in the year 2016.  

Canada, Japan, and 11 other European nations are working under the ESA (European Space Agency). They partnered with the USA for the ISS project. Reagan (former US president) wanted NASA to build ISS taking other countries’ help in 1984.  Japan happens to be among the nations which showed early interest in this mission. After the Intergovernmental Agreement (IGA),  Japan along with a few other countries, entered into a formal partnership with the USA to build the space station.  Of the three research modules on ISS, one has been developed by Japan. The Japanese module is called Kibo (Hope). It happens to be the largest and has a pressurized vessel. Its back porch is unpressurized where certain experiments requiring exposure to space can be kept. The module finds utility in deploying CubeSats into orbit.

Onishi spoke about the challenges of space exploration with increasing distance from Earth. Daily necessities like toilet paper and delicious space food are hard to come. According to him, traveling to Mars with current technology would be extremely difficult.  A minutely detailed approach is needed using ISS. First lunar missions will take place, before moving on to Mars.

During Obama’s time, JAXA along with other partners of the ISS partners had conceded to NASA’s proposition of extending to 2020. Later that changed to 2024, which marked the end of Japan’s involvement. After that JAXA might use LEO (low earth orbit) to explore and building partnerships with many other countries as well as private companies. In 2017, Shinzo Abe asked JAXA to establish a new institution for the purpose of exploring space. It  will materialize in the summer of 2018. Japan will conduct lunar exploration inhabitation, logistics and a rover and a lander. 

NASA’s cooperation would be critical at a juncture when Japan wants to discuss future missions with its partners. Going along those lines, Japan was the host for International Space Exploration Forum (ISEF-2) in March 2018. The first took place in 2014  in the USA.