Japan offers partnership on Moon and Mars project

The Japan Space Agency has offered to partner countries like Australia on relatively small scale but practical and manageable space projects including its end of decade Moon and Mars project.

Speaking at the Andy Thomas Foundation Space Forum in Adelaide, the Japanese Space Agency Deputy Director, Dr Masaki Fijimoto, offered some tips on how a small agency can thrive amid tight, uncertain budgets.


“Collaboration” was the underlying message delivered to more than a thousand delegates and dozens of businesses, agencies and research groups attending the Andy Thomas Foundation’s 15th Australian Space Forum in Adelaide.

“Japan’s philosophy is to do something different, to do something ‘okay style,’ ” he said.

“Don’t think up missions that are too big because they’re not going to be frequent enough. That’s why we’re interested in doing frequent, ‘okay’ sized missions to the surface of the Moon that will eventually feed into our Mars landing program”.

These ‘okay’ missions were essentially technology demonstrations, he added, but they were still driven by Japan’s main space science themes towards radio astronomy, seismology and sample return.

Fijimoto says these would build towards a more ambitious Martian Moon eXploration (MMX) mission to capture and return samples from Phobos. And a separate Mars lander project is to find ways to exploit the relative ease of getting small, light payloads to the surface.

Fijimoto said JAXA had its own challenges regarding skills and technologies and it needed international – and regional – collaboration to achieve its goals.

Mars project

“There will be some mass available aboard the orbital transfer vehicle,” he said. “So there may be a chance for you to provide a CubeSat, and we’ll give you the service of putting it into a Martian orbit. It’s a chance of having something like this happening much earlier and easier.

“I hope this kind of approach is going to be the new way of doing Mars exploration among smaller countries, including ourselves”.

Also in Cosmos: Concern about space budgets

Australian Space Agency chief Enrico Palermo told the conference that investments in space in Australia must drive benefits here on Earth, too.

“As household budgets tighten and scepticism in investing in space may arise, we must go back to the examples of why we go to space,”

“We need to explain the criticality of space in everyday life.”

It echoed the sentiment of Deputy Premier of South Australia Susan Close, who gave the opening address.

“Now, we know that budgets and governments put different emphasis on different industries at different times. And we know that there’s money that comes in, and then sometimes, that disappears. That can be trying, but it is not insurmountable.”

Close stated that Australia’s space industry was a long-term project.

“We know that improving our technology in space, our acquisition of knowledge from space, is something that will shape this century. And that we’re all dedicated to doing that.”

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