Japan plans to seek next-generation astronauts to join an international program to explore the moon.
Science minister Hagiuda Koichi revealed the idea to reporters on Friday.
The US-led Artemis program envisions building an outpost named Gateway to orbit the moon, and sending astronauts to the lunar surface from 2024.
Hagiuda said participation by Japanese astronauts is extremely important in terms of publicizing the country's space exploration efforts. He said the government hopes to support the new astronauts to make the best of the opportunity.
Ministry officials say Japan has seven active astronauts, but with their average age of 51, nearly half are due to reach retirement age by the late 2020s when Japanese participants are expected to land on the moon.
The country's space agency, JAXA, is due to study requirements for the would-be astronauts. The application process is likely to start around fall next year.