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Takeshi Hakamada, the founder of ispace and an avid Star Wars fan, dislikes flying but aims to send landers and rovers to the moon. (Photo by Yuki Kohara)
Startups in Asia

Lunar startup ispace raises Japan's hopes for a giant leap

Venture aims to lead us back to moon -- and to galaxies far, far away

MITSURU OBE, Nikkei staff writer | Japan

TOKYO -- In a rented office near Tokyo Tower, engineers toil away in a clean room, developing what look like small remote-controlled buggies. In a couple of years, the contraptions could wind up more than 350,000 km away, on the moon.

The engineers' mission is to build a rover that could be deployed in NASA's manned lunar program, Artemis. To achieve that goal, they are building on Japan's unique strength in remote-controlled robotics -- a strength that helped the country achieve the world's first sample-return missions to asteroids and aided investigations inside the damaged Fukushima nuclear plant.

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