Apollo 11 on the Moon

Chinese rover successfully lands on moon…

Chang'e-3

Chang’e-3

Today, the People’s Republic of China became the third nation in human history to successfully land on the moon, behind the United States and the former Soviet Union.

The Chang’e-3 spacecraft, launched from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in Sichuan, PRC on 01 December, just two weeks ago, will soon release the Yutu (“Jade Rabbit“) rover, a six wheeled scientific vehicle that contains an imaging sensor array, a telescope, an ultraviolet sensor and arms that can dig into the lunar soil up to 90 feet.  With a planned mission of three months, hopes are that the solar powered vehicle will live well beyond it’s life expectancy and mission time, much like other rovers have done.

Further, the next phase of the CNSA’s lunar program, Chang’e-5 is set to not only soft-land also, but has a stated objective to return to Earth with lunar soil samples, with a projected launch date of 2020.

Coming a long way since it first put a Chinese cosmonaut into space for the first time just ten years ago, the Chinese National Space Administration has clearly made leaps and bounds in putting the flag of it’s nation on another celestial body in a soft landing.

During the first EVA of Apollo 17, Eugene Cern...

Harrison Schmitt with the American flag and the Earth,400 000km away.

The last soft landing on the moon was by the Soviet Union’s Luna 24, which occurred in August 1976.  This mission was the third Soviet lunar expedition to successfully return lunar soil samples to Earth.  Four years before, Apollo 17 was the last manned exploration of the Moon, made up of Professor (and future United States Senator) Harrison Schmitt, and Navy Captain Eugene Cernan, known as “the Last Man on the Moon,” when his mission left the lunar surface exactly 41 years ago today, funny enough, when the Lunar Module ascended to meet the CSM at 10:54PM UTC.

“Sometimes, I catch myself looking up to the Moon and I wonder, when are we going back, and when will that be?”
— Captain James Lovell, USN (Retired)
Commander, Apollo 13

Advertisements

China signals Lunar Landing within Decade…

…we were done with the moon, ANYWAY — STUPID MOON!
  — Jon Stewart

In a spot from The Daily Show four years ago, Jon Stewart pokes fun at the fact that India found water on the Moon, that the United States missed in the last forty years of exploration.  “Billions of gallons of it.”

Jon Stewart: “…I didn’t know NASA had a base in India!”
Aasif Mandvi: “THEY DON’T!  This is the Indian Space Research Organization!”

Parody aside, the latest space news is that the People’s Republic of China, the rising super-power directly challenging the United States’ unchallenged military presence on, above or AROUND the world, is now setting it’s sights on a lunar landing.

Launching its own [uninhabited] test space station, designated Tiangong 1 (Heavenly Palace 1) in 2011, the Tiangong Space Program is China’s attempt to place a large, modular space station in orbit by the beginning of the next decade.  From here, Chinese cosmonauts can conduct their own research and development, as well as support it’s own lunar program, free from the stranglehold the United States and it’s allies has had on Space for the last half-century.

China may be coming to space-faring late, compared to the United States, Russia and India, however, let’s look at the current setups: The United States has a minimal space program, with NO current flight ability of it’s own.  Astronauts/Cosmonauts from the United States require the use of launch vehicles and equipment from the Russian Federation (and to a limited point, at this time, private companies such as SpaceX) to reach, resupply or restaff its interests aboard the International Space Station.   Indeed, another sign of the times is the massive cut NASA took from the President’s pen, through Congress, in appropriations.  The Space Shuttle was retired.  The successor to the Space Shuttle, the Apollo-inspired Project Constellation, was cancelled, leaving the United States military and government’s ability to reach out to the stars in limbo for the foreseeable future.

Indeed, this was echoed by NASA Administrator Charles Bolden.  “NASA is not going to the Moon with a human as a primary project probably in my lifetime,” he stated.

However, he continued: “…and the reason is, we can only do so many things,”

While he didn’t specifically elaborate, it’s possible that NASA’s future plans could lie elsewhere — specifically, landings on asteroids, or even Mars, in relatively short order.

While the cancellation of the Constellation Project puts a American landing on Mars anytime soon in question, as Orion was designed with the intention of being capable of travelling to both the Moon AND to Mars, will American innovation and the memories of the Space Race of the 1960s embolden American spirit in an even broader space race?