Japanese newspaper Mainichi Shimbun has revealed that NASA secretly proposed Japan to send its astronauts to the Moon, without naming sources. The proposal came up when NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine was in Japan in September 2019, said the Japanese newspaper citing several sources.
In his private visit to Japan, Bridenstine had reportedly met with space industry leaders in Tokyo, including the head of the Japanese government's Space Policy Committee. He reportedly sought those present to consider future cooperation between Japan and the US to go to lunar surface.
NASA Lunar Plans 2024
NASA has plans to send its astronauts to the Moon under the Artemis program by 2024, and it is currently designing a special research space station called Lunar Gateway in the Moon's orbit.
Prior to Bridenstine's visit, Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe met with US President Donald Trump in the month of May where they had apparently explored joint space exploration. In September, Japan has officially joined the US Artemis program to help the US build the Lunar Gateway.
On August 27, 2018, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) signed a "Joint Statement on Collaborative Efforts for Lunar Exploration and Beyond." JAXA has superior technology such as HTV-X that could support lunar space missions.
Japan was interested in NASA's Space Launch System (SLS) and Orion to transport humans to the cislunar region, including the Gateway. Japan's robotic technology in designing and manufacturing spacecraft, landers and rovers will be another area of cooperation.
Cooperation with ISRO
Apart from Japan, NASA has cooperated with other astro-players such as India's first mission to Moon, the Chandrayaan-1, where both ISRO-NASA have been credited with the joint discovery of water molecules on the moon surface, "unattained by any of the previous missions of such nature."
However, NASA was briefly upset with ISRO in the first part of 2019 when India undertook its anti-satellite weapon test. Later, Bridenstine wrote to his Indian counterpart stating that "based on the guidance received from the White House", NASA would continue to work with ISRO on a host of issues including human space flights.
However, NASA efforts are seen as measures to counter the overwhelming presence of China on the surface of the moon in the last five years, including sending a rover on the dark side of the moon that was never ventured by others.