China launched its first lunar probe yesterday, Japan sent a moon probe last month, and India plans a lunar mission next spring. The Asian space race has nationalistic pride at its roots,Â with scientific discovery and military prowess as added motives.
China’s Chang’e 1 probe will make its way to the moon in early November, with a mission to create 3D maps of the surface using stereo cameras and analyzing the surface with x-ray spectrometers. China is stirring nationalistic pride with an aggressive lunar program that aims to land an unmanned rover on the surface by 2012 and a man on the surface by 2020.
The chief scientist for China’s ruling Communist party recently stated, “As lunar exploration embodies our overall national strength, it is very significant for raising our international prestige and our national unity.”
These multiple launches, and the United States’ own lunar plans, clearly mark a new era of space competition. It’s hoped that these countries will share all of their scientific data and findings with the international community as NASA and others have done.
The number of scientific missions in space could prove beneficial for the understanding of our own planet. However, the economic expense is considerable. And China alarmed the international community in January when it militarized space by blasting an old satellite with a land-based missile (something no other country has attempted).