Vision '25 - Vatican's USA Branches Interested

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    Japan Dreams of Robot Moon Base in 2025

    Paul Kallender, IDG News Service Mon Jun 20, 4:00 AM ET

    TOKYO-- Japan wants to help build a lunar base and populate it with
    advanced versions of today's humanoid robots by around 2025, according
    to the head of the nation's space agency.

    The idea is more than a pipe-dream; it is part of a 20-year plan,
    called JAXA Vision 2025, that was drawn up by Keiji Tachikawa, a former
    president of Japan's largest mobile operator NTT
    DoCoMo, who is now president of the Japan Aerospace Exploration

    As part of the plan, Japan would use advanced robotic technologies to
    help build the moon base, while redeveloped versions of today's
    humanoid robots, such as Honda Motor's Asimo and Sony's Qrio, could
    work in the moon's inhospitable environment in place of astronauts, he
    said in a recent interview.

    Japan's lunar robots would do work such as building telescopes and
    prospecting and mining for minerals, Tachikawa said.

    "I see a big role for Japan's robotics technologies on the moon," he
    said. "Japanese robots will be one of our big contributions. If there
    is work where robots can replace humans, they will."
    U.S. Also Interested

    Tachikawa's plan follows a January 2004 decision by U.S.
    President George W. Bush that the U.S., with the assistance of partners
    including Japan, should build a lunar base by about 2020 and use it as
    a staging point for the human exploration of Mars.

    The plan has struck a chord in Japan, which has long harbored dreams of
    building such a base.

    Along with robots and robotic equipment, Japan's high-tech and
    industrial giants may also develop versions of more traditionally
    earthbound products for use in space.

    "Honda could develop automobiles for the moon. Many products that are
    made here on earth can be adapted to operate on the moon," Tachikawa

    Japan already has many of the technologies that it would need for its
    ambitions in space. Along with its better-known humanoid robots, the
    nation is also a leader in equipment such as robotic arms for space
    Robot Satellites

    NEC and other Japanese companies are building experimental "robot
    satellites" that will be able to service, repair and refuel other
    satellites. Toshiba is supplying several parts for the $100 billion
    International Space Station, a gigantic floating laboratory with solar
    panels that spread the length of a football pitch. The parts from
    Toshiba include a highly dextrous, 9.7-meter robot arm.

    Japan's space program was established in 1969, a few months after the
    American astronaut Neil Armstrong walked on the moon. In the late
    1990s, a leading Japanese think tank proposed that Japan launch over
    100 rockets carrying robots and materials to help establish a Japanese
    outpost by 2020.

    The proposal was ruled out because of costs, however. Soon after, three
    of Japan's satellite launches failed catastrophically, casting doubt on
    the nation's rocket technologies.

    JAXA's annual space budget is only about $1.5 billion, or one tenth of
    NASA's. Following its own failures, Japan's space program has
    historically looked to the United States for leadership, so the
    realization of Tachikawa's dream may depend on the America's continued
    commitment to return to the moon
    , Jun 20, 2005
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