Japan and NASA are jointly planning a historic road trip to the moon with a camper

Japan has offered to provide the United States with a pressurized lunar rover – in exchange for a reserved seat on the moon rover. Per NASAthe two nations have a deal of their own.

According to a new one signed agreement between NASA and the Japanese government, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) will “design, develop and operate” a sealed vehicle for both manned and unmanned lunar excursions. NASA will then oversee the launch and delivery, while Japanese astronauts in the vehicle will participate in two surface exploration missions.

[ Related: SLIM lives! Japan’s upside-down lander is online after a brutal lunar night ]

'A mobile habitat'

The Japanese pressurized RV will represent an important step forward for lunar missions. According to Space.comthe country has been working with Toyota and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries in recent years to develop such a vehicle. Toyota offered the first specifications for last year's camper: with a length of almost 6 meters, a width of 4.5 meters and a height of 4.5 meters, the rover will be about the same size as two minibuses parked next to each other. The cabin itself will provide “comfortable accommodations” for two astronauts, although it can apparently cram four inside should an emergency arise.

Like a camper traveling across the country, the rover is intended to provide its residents with everything they need for up to 30 days at a time. While indoors, astronauts will even be able to take off their bulky (and fashionable) outfits and move around normally – albeit with about 16.6 percent of the gravity as on Earth. Last week, NASA announced it had narrowed the search for its new Artemis Lunar Terrain Vehicle (LTV) to three companies, but unlike the Japanese vehicle, that vehicle will be unpressurized.

[Related: It’s on! Three finalists will design a lunar rover for Artemis ]

“It's a mobile habitat,” NASA Administrator Nelson said at the meeting press conference yesterday along with Minister Moriyama, who describes it as “a lunar laboratory, a lunar home, and a lunar explorer… a place where astronauts can live, work, and navigate the lunar surface.”

Like the upcoming Lunar Terrain Vehicle, the Japanese camper can be controlled remotely when astronauts are not around, and will remain in use for a decade after delivery.

“The search for the stars is led by nations exploring the cosmos openly, peacefully and together… America will no longer walk on the moon alone,” Nelson added.

A total of twelve astronauts – all American men – have walked on the moon's surface. When the US returns to the moon with NASA's Artemis missions, it will also be the first time a woman and a person of color land on the moon.

After some rescheduling, NASA currently plans to send its Artemis II astronauts on a trip around the moon in late 2025. Artemis III will see the first two humans land in more than 50 years in late 2026 or early 2027. The Artemis IV mission is currently underway. This is planned to occur no earlier than 2030. Meanwhile China is trying to land its own astronauts on the moon's surface by 2030.

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