Saturday, April 5, 2008

No hurry around the Moon these days

India pushed to delay its mooncraft; Japan and China to prolong successful missions, US prepares its autumn's launch and Europe's discussing next steps.

These days there is no hectic activity around the Moon. Japanese and Chinese officials announced extending their successful Kaguya and Chang'e-1 orbiter missions, that are currently taking place. In both cases, missions were originally design for about a year-long life; but with fluent progress of all orbiting crafts and no signs of natural retirement, space authorities in both countries try to receive as much data extra as possible. And in the best case, not to finish mission before its regional opponent. Both Japan a China lead autonomous space and moon programs and plan to launch a lander craft about 2013-2015 period.

India's Chandrayaan-1 mission which is to carry both ESA and Nasa's scientific instruments was delayed from original August to the first week of July. Nothing so special in the Earth nation's space agendas.

US is still quite far from launching its ambitious moon mission in autumn and there are no signs of possible delaying so far. In addition, there are quite extensive space base concept being considered in more and more detailed aspects. The US plan of base -as declared- is gonna be started perhaps somewhen in the period of 2020's. However, with the ongoing presidential debate among Obama, Clinton and McCain there are also changing and sometimes clashing perspectives of the moon activities and space policy generally. While McCain appears to be cordial fan of Bush's space "Vision" program for intensive human spaceflight and exploration, Obama is known for his reserved approach to current NASA. Explicitly, Obama says, he "believed in final frontier" but didn't agree with the proposed manner of exploration. He opposes human spaceflight, especially the push for man on Mars, as ineffective and expensive. Instead, he'd like to invest saved money into US intern social and education programs. As the moonbase concept is often considered spring board for future trips to Mars, this approach could have implicit impacts even for US Moon activities.

ESA has full hands with watching - so far extremely successful - ATV Jules Verne craft porting to ISS. On the European political level, the approved draft of the new EU treaty (to be ratified in upcoming two years) list the space policy as an area that should be discussed and voted in the European Council (by the heads of states) which could to lead to more united stance on space policy. There are also signs that ESA could be soon joined by some new EU members (Hungary, Czech rep., Romania or Poland).

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Asian space race getting hotter

Whoa whoa whoa! No matter how convincingly will Chinese authorities be denying the existence of undeclared but ongoing Asian Space race, another and another steps and proclamations of East Asian governments are confirming this reality. South Korea proclaimed its aim to launch own Moon orbiter by 2020!

Taking into consideration the problematic formal international sovereignty of Hong Kong and Taiwan, the South Korea was the last of the economically or politically dominant entities in region to publish such an ambition.

By 2025 they plan launch a Moon lander, in addition. Which is aprox. the time when US, China and others calculate to put a human on the surface and begin with construction of permanent
base(s). Korea is not space novice; by now it has more than 11 satellites on Earth's orbit. True, none of them was lifted of by their own launching technologie..

To get the race hotter even more, China proclaimed it will launch another manned mission including first space walk in 2008 just after Beijing-placed Olympics..

India signed an agreemet to launch Chandrayaan - 2 with Russia (continuation of Chandrayaan-1 which is calculated to be launched in March 08 and carry European survey device) . Now the project could include both orbiter and Moon lander. India demonstrates its huge will to join ongoing race even though it has not enough capabilities to lead complete space/Moon program alone.

And finally, still the most promising space power - the US - begin to feel the growing pressure from China in the space area. That's how I said somewhere, the reasonable level of competing tensions in international system is the best state to lead effective human extraplanet expansion.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Japan, China on orbit; India gonna join and Germany publishes its dreams

Moon is taking place in mainstream earth news nowadays. Why? At this moment and for about a year or so, Japanese and Chinese probes are cruising Moon's orbit. No, it's not about joint project. But the situation where Japan and China (historical, modern and perhaps even future Earth's tribe rivals) are launching suspiciously similar Moon projects and India (China's historical tribe rival number 2) is polishing surface of its own Moon orbital Chandrayaan-1, was refused to be called Asian space race by Chinese officials though.

Chandrayaan, by the way, is also hope of Europeans associated in ESA. It's gonna carry European technological module, that's gonna help with moon survey. As everything on European peninsula, ESA mixes tribal level with the supra-tribal one. Old tribal pride combined with incapability to achieve national glory by itself led to connecting forces with others. And space requires really huge amount of capabilities to be invested. But back to space!

Europeans together achieved to probe Moon by their SMART-1 project last year. Since then, there has been no signs of efforts to continue with Moon. ESA, instead, focus more on Mars, Earth related project and modest efforts to explore further Solar system. As well as exploration efforts also ESA's budget can be called modest. Perhaps, European peninsula miss kind of tribal rivals as China has.

What's worth mentioning in this situation, is that Germany - one of Europe's leading tribes, with really huge amount of historical rivals - called for its own lunar probe to be launched. Even though not so clearly, the very similar idea was mentioned by British who are now discussing whether to lift their moratorium on human spaceflights. It will be funny to watch whether this can lead to any kind of European space race. Perhaps not, but certain implications will surely come. How will ESA react? Their intergovermental meetings is gonna take place soon, so we will then see if there are some changes in idea of "exploring space together" or not.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Who'll be the next one?

Earth powers realize the potential that Moon and space research generally provide.

Here is the overview of planned missions - either manned or not - that are going to be launched in foreseeable future.

2007, the second half (September?)
- China plans to launch its first Moon probe Chang'e I .
- unmanned, orbital probe
- links: China aims for the moon this year
Moon orbiter ears expected launch

Chinese launch of unmanned moon probe is another step in its rising space program
following its first successful unmanned and manned flights on the Earth orbit. If Chang'e I is success, the another declared aim is an attempt to land with unmanned probe on the surface (now planned for 2012).

2007, ??? (July-August?)
- Japanase SELENE Moon mission to start
- links: Official SELENE website

SELenological and Engineering Explorer call itself the "largest lunar mission since the Apollo program." The Japanese moon attempt is not only to be orbital probe. After a year of mapping the surface from moon orbit, Japanese plan to try land the explorer and send signal back to Earth.

2008, April
- India to launch its first Moon probe Chandrayaan-1.
- unmanned, orbital
- partners: USA, ESA, Bulgaria
- links: India plans mission to moon next April

The aim of this mission is very similar to all similar to all first launches, that means mainly surface mapping with focus on minerals and chemicals.
Politically significant is the US-Indian cooperation. India hopes US will remove all its embargoes on developed electronics so that the cooperation can fully flourish. This step is due to rising US interest in India partnership highly likely to come.

2008, September
- NASA long terming Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter mission to begin
- links: LRO official website

This probe should be first in the NASA "Return to the Moon" program. In 2009, robotic landing should take place. The declared ultimate goal of the mission is the return of humans on the moon surface with possibility of permanent settlement. NASA is going to launch about one probe a year before the human will again touch the moon. The human landing is planed for 2015-2020 period.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Our Closest Neighbour (Don't worry! No technical figures ;-)

Welcome, dear reader of this blog.

As this is the opening article of the site, the very first point i'm gonna to write about is a purpose of this blog and something about its contents.

This blog is dedicated to the Moon, the natural satellite of the Earth and the closest neighbour of us all in terms of the space bodies. There's something magical about the Moon. We have deeply rooted its picture in our collective memory. It witnessed all our history, our birth, our wars; maybe it will witness our decline ..

During the few last decades, mainly because of hot nature of "Cold" war and overwhelming technological competitiveness, space and Moon became the top sphere of interest of humankind. Humans' technological knowledge became so advanced that we dare speak about "conquering" the Moon. The smaller part of this site will be focused on history of conquering and getting to personally know our neighbour.

The main is gonna concentrate on current state of human doing about Moon. This site will contain very few technical measures and is definitely not scientifically oriented. As i'm not person with technical education, it is not the most interesting issue for me, either. I will be more writing about human efforts to explore the Moon, how they cooperate or compete each other and which are the perspectives of human return there. As new Earth powers are rising, the current ones are keeping their posts and declined ones are trying to get their glory back, the dominance over outer space is again field of highest importance. The Moon is like the the highest peak of this space and again touching its surface would be the symbolic victory of this competition.

I'm gonna write about something that i call Moon policy.