The Artemis project, an international effort led by the United States aimed at advancing lunar exploration and eventually returning humans to the Moon by 2025, cannot succeed without Japan's help, NASA's attache in Asia said Friday.

"To succeed, we need not only JAXA, but also the cooperation of private companies," said Garvey McIntosh, referring to the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency. "You don't need to be a big company. As long as you have good ideas and passion, you can (contribute)."

As part of the Artemis program, the United States is aiming to return humans to the Moon for the first time since the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration's 1972 Apollo 17 mission.

Rendition shows an astronaut exploring the dust-covered surface of the Moon. (Photo courtesy of the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space
Visitors peruse the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency booth at the International Space Industry Exhibition at Tokyo Big Sight on Feb. 3, 2023. (Kyodo)

The Japanese government announced in October 2019 that it was joining the project, seeking to become the second country after the United States to land an astronaut on the Moon.

Last November, the two countries also signed an agreement to send a Japanese astronaut to Gateway, a lunar-orbiting space station to be built as part of the project, in exchange for JAXA providing logistic transport and other support.

During his special lecture at the International Space Industry Exhibition at Tokyo Big Sight, McIntosh praised Japan as having the "best technology in the field of sample return," citing the successful Hayabusa2 mission that collected the world's first-ever asteroid subsurface samples.

Go Takizawa, director of the National Space Policy Secretariat of the Cabinet Office, earlier the same day provided an overview of Japan's space policy, including plans to clean up space debris and encouraging startups to launch private rockets.

The Japanese government has allocated a total of 611.9 billion yen ($4.8 billion) for space-related activities in its supplementary and initial budgets for fiscal 2022 and 2023, respectively, a 17 percent increase from the combined figures for fiscal 2021 and 2022, according to Takizawa.

Under the Martian Moons Exploration project, Japan is now aiming to travel to Mars to survey the red planet's two moons, Phobos and Deimos, in the hope of becoming the first country to collect a sample from the former.

In its second year, the International Space Industry Exhibition brings together public and private organizations involved in all aspects of space development, including lunar exploration, rocket and satellite manufacturing, and consumer-oriented space services.

Organized by Nikkan Kogyo Shimbun Ltd., over 60 organizations were represented at the three-day event through Friday this year.

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