Japan, with the help of the international community, is working on plans to send a manned mission to Mars.
Science ministry officials, citing the staggering costs and technological difficulties, said such an undertaking could only be accomplished with participation of other countries.
In a May 30 meeting with an advisory council to discuss Japan's space exploration strategy, ministry officials said the first step was to get other countries involved in the Mars project. The council is expected to compile a report on the project by July.
In August 2013, the International Space Exploration Coordination Group, a voluntary organization of 14 space agencies, said in its updated global exploration road map that it expects to send a human mission for the exploration of Mars in 2030 at the earliest.
The road map said the ISECG will continue to advance a long-range strategy, using the International Space Station and expanding step by step to achieve a human mission to Mars by first further exploring the moon and sending unmanned missions to the Red Planet.
The U.S. government in 2010 unveiled a plan in its space policy to send astronauts on missions to orbit Mars by the mid-2030s. However, the international framework as to how to advance such a plan has yet to be determined.
Japan's science ministry plans to propose at a ministerial-level international conference scheduled for 2016 in Japan that human missions to explore Mars be an international undertaking.
Tokyo hopes to seek the participation of various countries and lead the discussion for an agreement.
To realize the project, the participating countries need to discuss how to share expenses and develop the necessary technology.
Japan's precise role in the project, such as whether Japanese astronauts would be aboard the spacecraft, is unknown.
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