Japan and the United States signed a document Friday for cooperation on lunar exploration led by NASA, with Japan aiming to send astronauts to the Moon in the latter half of the 2020s.

Koichi Hagiuda, minister of education, culture, sports, science and technology, and James Bridenstine, administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, signed the joint exploration declaration during a virtual meeting.

Image of a lunar orbiting space station under NASA's Artemis program. (Image courtesy of NASA)

The document said the two sides would aim to provide Japanese crew with opportunities on the Gateway, a small spaceship that will orbit around the Moon, as well as on the lunar surface. The Gateway will be equipped with living quarters for astronauts, a research lab and ports for visiting spacecraft

"We've taken a big first step toward having the first Japanese landing on the lunar surface," Hagiuda said at a press conference.

The two sides will discuss details such as the number of Japanese astronauts and their lunar surface activities, ministry officials said.

The document describes planned cooperation for NASA's Artemis program, including Japanese contributions to the Gateway and lunar surface exploration, NASA said in a statement.

Through the Artemis program, NASA plans to land the first woman and next man on the Moon by 2024 and establish sustainable lunar surface exploration with its commercial and international partners by 2028.

Japan plans to provide equipment such as power components for the Gateway's Habitation and Logistics Outpost module by 2022, according to the document.

Japan also plans to provide components for life support and environmental control as well as thermal control pumps for the Gateway's International Habitation Module, which will be delivered to NASA by the European Space Agency in 2025 for launch.