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Japan's Space Exploration Plan Takes Off

An expert advisory panel is urging the Japanese government to move forward with its $2-billion moon exploration program.

The plan includes sending wheeled robots to the moon within the next five years and creating an unmanned space station on the moon by 2020.

The robots would have solar panels, an observation device and be able to gather geological samples. The materials would then be sent back to Earth by rocket.

The robots would work from the lunar base, which will be located at the moon's south pole.

The expert panel approved the recommendations Thursday after a one-year study. They say the program is needed, despite government budget cuts, in order for Japan to be a leader in the space race.

Japan has already made strides in space exploration with a satellite that has successfully returned high-definition images of the entire moon. It also sent out an unmanned probe that recently returned to Earth from a seven-year journey to an asteroid.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP.