The Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) has revealed plans to extract hydrogen from the ice fields on the moon to be used as a fuel source.
The goal is to reduce costs during the nation’s planned monthly explorations in the mid-2030s by creating a local fuel source, rather than transporting abundant amounts of fuel from Earth, according to the Japan Times.
Scientists suspect that there may be substantial deposits of ice near the south pole of the moon and that hide in the shadows of many of its craters.
As a preliminary step, the space agency plans to work with NASA to build the Lunar Gateway, a smaller space station orbiting the Moon, designed to do research below the lunar surface.
The fuel generated would provide enough power to easily transport four astronauts to and from the Gateway. It could also be used to power a surface transport vehicle that can travel up to 1,000 kilometers, according to the Japan Times.
JAXA estimates that approximately 37 tonnes of water will be needed to supply sufficient energy to and from the “Moon Gate”. It will also take another 21 tons to explore the surface.
JAXA also unveiled plans for a self-driving six-wheeled vehicle last year in collaboration with hydrogen-powered car giant Toyota.
Other countries, including India and the United States, plan to analyze the moon’s water resources. China, which has already landed an unmanned spacecraft on the lunar surface, plans to send a probe later this month to the moon to collect soil samples.
The Japanese Ministry of Science intends to request a record 280 billion yen for JAXA in its budget request for next fiscal year. The amount is much higher than about 190 billion 190 allocated annually for JAXA in the last 10 years. The budget includes funding to work with the US on the Gateway space station project.