Japan to change space policy, aims manned mission: report
TOKYO (AFP) Jan 29, 2004
Spurred by China's success in its first-ever manned space flight, Japan plans a drastic review of its space policy and will consider launching manned space trips as well, a report said Thursday.

The government will "consider realising a manned space flight by a Japanese astronaut at an early time", the Yomiuri Shimbun daily said in its evening edition, without indicating a timeframe.

The government's science and technology council, chaired by Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, is expected to agree to draw up a new policy by mid-2004, the mass-circulation daily said without citing sources.

Japan had decided to review its space policy primarily because China had succeeded in putting a man into space last October and US President George Bush announced this month a US return to the moon as early as 2015, it said.

But the daily added some government officials are cautious towards manned flight programmes as they would need to boost the space development budget, currently totalling a relatively paltry 300 billion yen (2.8 billion dollars) a year.

No immediate comment on the report was available from the science ministry.

In November Japan failed to put a pair of spy satellites into orbit, dashing hopes of using its domestically-developed H2-A rocket to become a player in the commercial satellite launch market.