Monday, April 25, 2005

Japanese Robots to Mine Moon?

Robots in space the next frontier

By ISAO ISHIDA, The Asahi Shimbun

JAXA envisages robots digging for resources on the moon.

Within two decades, a Japanese space shuttle will blast off with astronauts working alongside robots to make Japan a brand name in space.

The JAXA long-range vision includes astronauts using robots to probe for resources, conduct research and beam lectures back to Earth-bound students. They would travel in a reusable space vehicle.

irst, JAXA must convince the government bean counters that the blueprint space project will be worth the estimated 250 billion yen to 280 billion yen [US $ 2.5 Billion] annually over the next decade.

Today, the agency operates on an annual budget of 180 billion yen [US $ 1.5 billion]. The number of space industry workers has also fallen in recent years, from about 10,000 in fiscal 1995, to around 6,000 in fiscal 2003.

An unmanned orbital transfer vehicle called the H-II Transfer Vehicle (HTV), now in development, is set to launch in fiscal 2008. It will deliver materials to the International Space Station
JAXA hopes to make the most of Japan's advanced robotic and artificial intelligence technology already developed.

In space, man and robot will work together, giving the programs a ``distinctively Japanese trademark,'' says a JAXA official. Deep probes for natural resources on the moon or space-beamed science lectures are part of the vision.

JAXA's vision comes as an embodiment of a basic space development and utilization strategy that the Cabinet Office's Council for Science and Technology Policy released in September. The strategy said Japan should ``prepare for independent human space exploration in 20 to 30 years.'' in space the next frontier�-�ENGLISH


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