The US and Japan will “dramatically expand” their cooperation in outer space, with missions to Mars and the moon coming “very soon”, US President Donald Trump said, as his administration challenges China for dominance beyond Earth’s orbit.
“Japan will join our mission to send US astronauts to space,” Trump said during a joint news conference with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Tokyo on Monday. “We’ll be going to the moon, we’ll be going to Mars very, very soon. It’s very exciting. From a military standpoint, there is nothing more important right now than space.”
Trump spoke while on a four-day state visit to Japan, two months after his vice President Mike Pence said the US will return astronauts to the moon within five years, possibly using commercial rockets.
The US and China are in a race to explore Mars and beyond, another front in a battle for global influence that encompasses not just trade but technological and military superiority.
While the US hasn’t landed an astronaut on the moon since 1972, China became the first country to land a spacecraft on its far side. It’s now planning further missions to return samples to Earth before assessing the feasibility of a lunar research base.
Trump’s interest in reigniting American space exploration comes after years of budget concerns, including the cancellation of shuttle flights. — Reported by Karen Leigh, (c) 2019 Bloomberg LP