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.

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