Since radiation will be a major factor for future lunar colonists, establishing outposts within these caves may be the wisest course of action (at least until artificial magnetic fields are perfected).
(Hat Tip: Engadget)
What does an country with moon aspirations do when its rival outnumbers it 10 to 1? Send in the robots of course! It looks as if the Japanese are seriously considering leveraging their silicon friends in order to make lunar life more habitable.
(Times Online) But by 2020, Japan predicts, humanoid robots will be ready to colonise the Moon. […]
The group’s remit was to draft a five-year plan on the development and exploitation of space – a programme for action that was initially to have included the goal of putting a human Japanese astronaut on the Moon within the next 20 years. In the latest plans, though, robots have inherited the prime position in Japan’s first – and still unconstructed – lunar lander. Experts have been arguing for years that the country’s aim should be to develop humanoid robots to the point where they are capable of everything people can do, and more.
Although robots would give the land of the rising sun an early advantage against China, it may also devalue their claims of ownership over certain lunar real estate (as a country would have to have a very good reason for injuring a human as opposed to destroying a machine).
(Hat Tip: Hobby Space)
Earlier this month, the land of the rising sun decided to reverse its robotic space policy and actually embrace the idea of sending flesh and blood to explore the heavens above.
(Mainichi Daily News) The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) wants “to have the technology for independent manned missions,” President Keiji Tachikawa announced last month, in a reversal of Japan’s policy against manned space exploration.
The plan on manned space missions was due to be mentioned in a meeting of an expert panel at the government’s space development strategy headquarters on Friday. While not setting any specific time frame, it does call for a review of current policy on manned space missions as part of plans for the proposed Space Solar Power System (SSPS), and a future manned mission to the moon.
This is a smart (although late) move for Japan, who had to watch as their rival China conducted its first spacewalk (establishing the Asian giant as the dominant space power).
Although Japan has successfully launched a satellite around the Moon (in HD nonetheless), they need to place more emphasis on sending their own citizens into space, especially now that China is intent on building a military space station by the end of next year.
Unlike their silicon beasts that roam the heavens above, a human presence will help the Japanese establish a public claim to outer space (as robots can always be blasted out of the sky without raising too much public outrage).
(Moon Daily) “The surface can tell us a lot about what’s happening inside the Moon, but until now mapping has been very limited,” C.K Shum, professor of Earth sciences at Ohio State University, said in the February 13 issue of Science.
“For instance, with this new high-resolution map, we can confirm that there is very little water on the Moon today, even deep in the interior. And we can use that information to think about water on other planets, including Mars.” […]
The hard surface suggests very little water, researchers said. If there were water, even deep within the Moon, the surface would be more flexible than it was shown to be.
Since hauling water from the homeworld would probably increase the cost of a lunar outpost, future settlers may choose to simply import hydrogen from Earth instead (as it is much lighter).
While China has also launched a lunar satellite (not to mention conducted a space walk), they seem to fear an alliance between the two rival nations, one that seems to benefit the US and put the Asian giant at a disadvantage.
(Asia Times) India and Japan’s agreement in October to expand cooperation between the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), in the field of disaster management, has the raised the ire of a China fearful that the US is masterminding a powerful space alliance between its allies in the region.
All of Asia wants to see improved regional disaster management capabilities, but the growing ties between ISRO and JAXA come just as India and Japan are devising an action plan to advance security cooperation.
“China is concerned about the general effort of the US during the Bush Administration to form a Japanese-Indian alliance to contain China,” said Dr Gregory Kulacki, senior analyst and China project manager at the Massachusetts-based Union of Concerned Scientists.
Even though China probably fears a military alliance between India and Japan, they may also be worried that an alliance between the two Asian giants could knock China from its current status the space super power in the region.
Such an alliance could also convince other space faring democracies (such as the US and most of Europe) to work together, leaving Aristocracies like Russia and China to fend for themselves in the vacuum of space.
Whether or not the US will actively partner with Japan and India has yet to be seen, but either way it looks as if America may have found a way to counter the rising space power by reaching out to China’s rivals.
(Hat Tip: Space Travel)
With both the US and China relying upon rockets to secure their solar future beyond the heavens, it looks as if the nation of the rising sun is placing its bets on the space elevator.
(RIA Novosti) Japanese engineers intend to build an elevator to deliver cargo into space. Japanese authorities are prepared to allocate $10 billion for the project.
The space elevator is expected to cut the cost of delivering cargo into space and is considered one of the most ambitious projects of the 21st century. The Japanese plan to unveil a schedule for the elevator’s assembly and commissioning this November.
While the space elevator has its share of engineering problems, its successful construction would pretty much guarentee Japan’s space dominance over its rivals, as Japan would be able to launch cargo at much lower prices than either China or the US could via rockets.
A space elevator would enable Japan to establish large colonies fairly quickly on both the Moon and Mars–not to mention help the nation generate billions of Yen by renting it out to half the planet.