Good news for space exploration: Japan’s space agency JAXA revealed plans to land a rover on the Moon by 2018, joining a very small club of nations that directly explored our planet’s satellite.

“This is an initial step and a lot of procedures are still ahead before the plan is formally approved,” a JAXA spokesperson told reporters.

Image via DesignTrend.

Of course, there are still some hurdles to pass, and the final ‘OK’ hasn’t been given yet, but if everything goes alright, then JAXA will use perfect soft-landing technologies to land an unmanned rover – the same technology which was proposed for a mission to Mars. The lander will use face recognition software found in digital cameras which will enable it to recognize craters on the surface and ensure a better maneuvering for landing.

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The mission is estimated to cost between $83.4 million and $125 million, and will yield significant scientific value – it will also put Japan in an elite club, rivaling achievements of Asian countries India and China, which can both boast remarkable achievements – China’s Yutu lunar rover outlasted expectations and India successfully put a probe into orbit around Mars.

So far, the only countries that have sent rovers to the Moon are China, the US and the Soviet Union.