Aug 9, 2006
It takes something fairly outlandish to raise eyebrows in today's scientific and technological communities, but the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) did just that at an international conference held in Tokyo last week. The agency announced its goal to build an inhabitable base on the moon by 2030.
Preceding the construction of the lunar base, JAXA has some work to do. Junichiro Kawaguchi, the Japanese agency's director, said the current plan is to send astronauts to the moon in 2020 to begin construction. In the immediate future, the Japanese space program plans to send a new satellite into orbit and unmanned, robot-run missions to the moon to collect rock samples from the moon's surface as early as next year. But as an article on Nature.com points out, the news may be a bit premature:
Satoki Kurokawa, a JAXA spokesperson, told the AFP (via New Scientist), that
Before raising eyebrows at Kurokawa's vague justification for the expensive space program -- "cutting-edge technologies" and robotics -- one should consider the contributions that aerospace research has made to the consumer sector. Among many examples, aerospace research has helped these along: artificial heart pumps, developments in prosthetics, alternative fuel vehicles, air filtration systems, television broadcasting and an entire roster of items too long to list here. Just the same, $26 billion is a lot of money.