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Japan Set To Cancel Delayed Moon Probe Mission

File image of the JAXA Lunar-A mission.
by Staff Writers
Tokyo (AFP) Jan 15, 2007
Japan's space agency said Monday it had recommended cancelling a much-delayed unmanned mission to the moon in the latest setback to the nation's ambitions to explore the final frontier. The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) planned to call off its Lunar-A mission, which was intended to shed light on the moon's origin and evolution using a module to land on its surface, a spokesman said.

"The mother ship was built 10 years ago and over the years it has been deteriorating, and it has come to a point where it can no longer be used," project manager Takashi Nakajima told AFP.

"Instead of refurbishing the mission's mother ship or building a new one, we made a recommendation that we would like to pursue other possibilities. We do not want to build another similar space craft," he added.

The mission had intended to release two devices to penetrate the lunar surface and transmit information to the mother ship orbiting the moon.

A final decision on the fate of the project will be made early next month. The agency is considering alternative exploration missions, or the possibility of other countries' craft taking the devices into space.

Japan's space program had been on a rebound with a series of satellite launches, after a series of embarrassments.

In November 2003, Japan suffered a humiliating failure when a rocket carrying a satellite to monitor North Korea had to be destroyed soon after lift-off due to technical problems.

That incident came just a month after neighboring China became the third country to carry out a manned space mission. China, a longtime Japanese aid recipient, is pressing ahead with a program that includes space walks and dockings.

JAXA said in August last year it had set a goal of constructing a manned lunar base in 2030.

The US is planning to put a person on the moon by 2015 -- the first since another American, Eugene Cernan, on December 11, 1972 -- while the European Space Agency plans a human flight to the moon in 2020.

Japan's space ambitions were dealt a further blow in late 2005 by the apparent failure of a landmark mission to bring back samples from an asteroid.

Source: Agence France-Presse

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