According to the Japanese newspaper, The Mainichi, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine proposed to the Japanese government during a visit in September 2019 that it should join the U.S. in a plan to put Japanese astronauts on the surface of the moon in the latter half of the 2020s. He met with the head of the Japanese government’s Space Policy Committee. It will be part of the agency’s Artemis program by 2024 by using a research space station in the Moon’s orbit called the Lunar Gateway as a stepping stone.
According to futurism, in May, Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe met with president Donald Trump, in part to discuss cooperation in space exploration. Around four months later, NASA and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency officially announced they will work together under the Artemis program, with Japan assisting the US in building the Gateway. The move could also represent a way to keep China’s space goals in check. The world’s most powerful nations are racing to make the Moon a strategic outpost and China is well on its way to make its first crewed mission to the Moon a reality.
The goal of landing is to send the next man and the first woman on the Moon, especially at the Lunar South Pole region by 2024. NASA sees Artemis as the next step towards the long-term goal of establishing a sustainable presence on the Moon, laying the foundation for private companies to build a lunar economy, and eventually sending humans to Mars. In 2017, the lunar campaign was authorized by Space Policy Directive 1, utilizing various ongoing spacecraft programs such as Orion, the Lunar Gateway, Commercial Lunar Payload Services, and adding an undeveloped crewed lander. The Space Launch System will serve as the primary launch vehicle for Orion, while commercial launch vehicles are planned for use to launch various other elements of the campaign. NASA requested $1.6 billion in additional funding for Artemis for fiscal year 2020, while the Senate Appropriations Committee requested from NASA a five-year budget profile which is needed for evaluation and approval by Congress. In March 2019, the Trump Administration released its Fiscal Year 2020 Budget Request for NASA. This budget did not initially include any money for the Block 1B and Block 2 variants of SLS but later a request for a budget increase of 1.6 billion dollars towards SLS, Orion, and crewed landers was made.
In October 2019, it was announced that NASA had authorized Boeing to purchase materials in bulk for more SLS rockets ahead of the announcement of a new contract. This contract is expected to support up to ten core stages and eight Exploration Upper Stages. In May 2019 NASA announced 11 contracts worth $45.5 million in total for studies on transfer vehicles, descent elements, descent element prototypes, refueling element studies and prototypes. One of the requirements is that selected companies will have to contribute at least 20% of the total cost of the project “to reduce costs to taxpayers and encourage early private investments in the lunar economy.”