Japan’s Lunar Rover Holds the Key to Its Nation’s Rebirth

A lunar rover developed by the Tokyo-based venture company ispace was launched into orbit on the 11th on a rocket owned by American company SpaceX with the aim of being both the first Japanese and the first privately developed rover to land on the moon.

In America, private companies such as SpaceX have been leading the charge in space exploration, while Japan has lagged behind the western world in regard to satellite launches and other aspects of the space industry. Accessing the latest frontiers of human exploration by supporting private companies’ lunar aspirations would be a significant moment for Japan.

For humanity, the moon represents how far we’ve come as a species. Along with the start of the Artemis program, an international lunar exploration mission headed by NASA, China has hastened its own competing program. It’s not just government bodies getting in on this new space race, however, as private companies are also competing for a piece of the pie. One such company is ispace, contributing launch systems and other vital resources that will allow the Artemis program to gain a foothold on the moon and looking to establish and expand the space business.

Building off the previous work of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), new innovations by private companies have many anticipating more advancements to come from Japan. There are also hopes that trust in space programs will be rebuilt after a string of dishonest research by JAXA and the failure of the micro-sized lunar lander OMOTENASHI.

As all of this is new ground for private enterprise, ispace has partnered with Mitsui Sumitomo Insurance Group in creating “lunar insurance.” Envisioned as a way for “corporations to support each other’s ambitions,” this plan would manage the risks that come with lunar exploration and compensate companies for any losses. This can only be seen as a win for those working to pull Japan out of its technological stagnation.

One cannot forget about Japan’s failure to keep pace with other world powers in COVID-19 vaccine creation, the cause of which was drug companies’ inability to brave the risks of research and development, risks which are applicable when working at the forefront of technology. For example, proponents of national security will protest that only so much government spending can be devoted to such a far-reaching industry.

Creating arrangements such as lunar insurance in various fields of work will certainly help to stimulate the business ventures of private companies. The example some companies have set for reinvigorating Japan’s lunar projects, and subsequently its aerospace projects in general, must be the model for reinvigorating Japan as a whole.

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