New Delhi: To counter China’s power in space exploration India are now planing to fly to the moon with Japan which is also Asia’s leading economic power. National space agencies in both countries are planning a joint mission to explore the moon’s polar regions for water that they hope could one day sustain human habitation.
The collaboration highlights the rising importance of Asia in space and the geopolitical reaction in the region to China’s rise. “Both India and Japan have demonstration landings on the moon coming up,” said Hiroki Furihata of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA). “The next step for both of us is true exploration. If we combine the strengths of both sides it can be a win-win.”
Japan and India have already mounted successful lunar missions, with India’s Chandrayaan-1 impactor hitting the moon in 2008 and Japan’s Selene orbiting from 2007-09. This year, Chandrayaan-2 will deploy a rover, while Japan’s SLIM lander is scheduled to reach the moon in 2019.
But their efforts have been overshadowed by China’s ambitious 2007-14 series of Chang-e missions. Two more, intended to return lunar rocks to Earth, are scheduled for the next few years. Initial discussions had begun on establishing common objectives and dividing up work, he said.
Ajey Lele, a senior fellow at New Delhi’s Institute of Defence Studies and Analysis, said that combining technical and financial resources would allow faster progress than the two countries could achieve alone.