WASHINGTON — The United States and Japan are cooperating to advance shared interests in space, including accelerating NASA’s return to the Moon.

At a joint press conference in Tokyo May 27 which included Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, President Donald Trump mentioned cooperation in space exploration between Japan and the United States.

“I am pleased to confirm that Prime Minister Abe and I have agreed to dramatically expand our nations’ cooperation in human space exploration,” Trump said. “Japan will join our mission to send U.S. astronauts to space. We’ll be going to the moon. We’ll be going to Mars very soon. It’s very exciting.”

A fact sheet released by the State Department May 27 outlined that the two “agreed on the importance of a sustained human presence on and around the moon.”

A cooperative agreement of some kind between the United States and Japan was expected to be signed during Trump’s visit. Japan, who is a major partner on the International Space Station, had shown an interest in participating in aspects of NASA’s renewed push to return to the moon, including contributing modules to the Gateway facility NASA plans to develop in lunar orbit to support human lunar landings.

“Building on its International Space Station (ISS) experience, Japanese astronauts will strive to join American astronauts on the moon and destinations beyond,” the State Department fact sheet noted.

“It’s a great pleasure to collaborate with NASA in that endeavor,” Hiroshi Yamakawa, president of the Japanese space agency JAXA, said in a video released by NASA May 28.

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