Tokyo: Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced Tuesday that Japan will remain part of the International Space Station project when it is extended until 2024, strengthening its alliance with the US.
The four-year extension was proposed by the US in January 2014 extending the ISS project beyond 2020 in the hope of using the facility as a foothold for an eventual manned mission to Mars. Of the 15 countries participating in the ISS, Russia and Canada have already expressed their intent to remain in the project, while European members are yet to decide.
“We will faithfully implement the schedule for our basic space program and work on an aggressive space strategy,” the Japan Times quoted Abe as saying during a meeting on space development.
As the sole Asian member of the ISS project, Japan plans to stick with the extended project on the condition that other Asian countries are given a chance to use the Japanese laboratory unit Kibo, which is currently shared with the US.
The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency is also considering providing a next-generation life-support system to the ISS, officials said.
So far, Japan has invested 900 billion yuan ($7.3 billion) toward the ISS project.
The ISS, constructed between 1998 and 2011 in an orbit some 400 km above Earth, is a massive facility comprising laboratories, living quarters, solar panels and other sections.