The US, Russia, India and China may by eyeing a manned return to the Moon over the next two decades or so, but only Japan could trump the lot by saying it wants to send humanoid robots up there first.

According to the Japanese Cabinet, it intends to send bipedal autonomous robots to the Moon by 2020. The idea is that Asimo – or whoever gets the first lunar ticket – will scope the satellite out for humans to follow soon after.

I can haz Moon?

No specifics have been decided yet, but the rather grand-sounding Strategic Headquarters for Space Development has been charged with fleshing things out over the next two years.

While Japan currently has a wary eye on the skies because of recent North Korean missile threats, it generally follows through on space-related plans.

In other words, we're probably in for a rerun of the '60s space race, albeit with metal and plastic protagonists in a few years' time.