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Japan gov't sets sights on moon-base food production initiatives for future missions

An image of what a food production facility on the moon's surface might look like is seen in this image provided by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency.

TOKYO -- As part of goals to begin long-term stays on the moon's surface in the late 2030s, a government-led project to promote the development of technology to cultivate and supply food outside Earth is set to take off.

    The government envisages a system to maximize use of organic waste on the moon base as raw material and efficiently produce highly nutritious food. The technology is expected to help in the Artemis U.S. missions to send people to the moon, which Japan is also participating in, thereby heightening Japan's international reputation in food resources.

    The Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries is calling for applications until the end of September from joint venture groups to outsource the project to. The entrusted period would be five years ending in fiscal 2025. In fiscal 2021, a maximum budget of 310 million yen (about $2.8 million) is expected to be allocated for the project.

    Currently, space food is made and processed on Earth to be taken into space, but an individual connected to the project said, "It's estimated that per kilogram, it costs somewhere around the 100-million-yen (some $900,000) level to take the food to the moon some 380,000 kilometers from Earth."

    If people spend years on the moon, it will create enormous transportation costs making it necessary for food to be produced on-site. As a result, the goal is to create a food supply system that can sustainably secure practically all required nutrients by reusing waste, including organic waste, even in the airlocked environment of a moon base.

    What is envisaged specifically is highly efficient productive technology and other breakthroughs that can efficiently cultivate food including lab-grown meat made from extracted cells of animals including pigs and cows, as well as highly nutritious and high-yield foods including rice, soy beans and other produce in a plant factory setup.

    The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency plans to establish a base on the moon in the first half of the 2030s, and have four people spend around 500 days on it between 2035 and 2040. Therefore, it is necessary to address food issues by that time.

    (Japanese original by Taiki Asakawa, Business News Department)

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