With Asia's biggest powers set to launch their first moon missions, possibly as early as next month, the countdown is on in the hottest space race since the Cold War.And from Asia Times :
Japan claims its project is the biggest since the Apollo missions put the first humans on the moon. China, hoping to pave the way for its own manned missions, says its probes will study the lunar surface to help plan a landing.
But the big question right now is not about science — it's who will get there first.
Japan's space agency said last week its SELENE lunar satellite is on track for a Sept. 13 launch, following years of delay as engineers struggled to fix a slew of mechanical problems. China, meanwhile, was rumored to be planning a September launch for its Chang'e 1 probe, but is being coy as to the exact date.
Both sides say all systems are "go."
The Chinese satellite and its Changzheng 3 rocket carrier have passed all tests and construction of the launch site is finished, according to the National Space Administration's Web site. Last month, China's minister of defense technology told CCTV that all was ready for a launch "by the end of the year."
With the Chinese and Japanese making plans to establish moon bases, can India be far behind?Watch this, er, Space
"Global players have declared that by 2020, they will have their bases on the moon," Madhavan Nair, chief of the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO), declared on August 18. "I don't think India can afford to be lagging behind in that."
Nair said ISRO is defining technologies needed for India's first manned space mission in an Indian space vehicle scheduled for 2015...
Leading Asia's moon ambitions is the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), which rescheduled its lunar orbiter, Kaguya, to September 13 instead of this month. On August 17, China insisted its lunar Chang'e I program is purely scientific and not competing with any other country (read Japan).
India is expected to invest US$1.5 billion over the next five years to develop technologies for a manned space flight by 2015 and a moon flight by 2020. Most of the designing, research and technical jobs are to be completed by 2012.