China successfully completed a moon landing in Dec. 2013 with their rover named Jade Rabbit and a new space race begins. The moon has not had a human visitor to its surface since 1972, when the United States’ Apollo 17 mission left the moon. In December of 1972, Astronaut Gene Cernan took the last step on the moon. His transmission back to the Earth was a message of hope for man someday to return to the moon. In 1961, President John F. Kennedy announced that the United States would land a man on the moon and return him safely to earth before the end of the decade. Cernan believed that Kennedy’s challenge to the nation and the world had written man’s destiny to explore space.
Since 1976, no nation has landed or stepped foot on the moon. For 39 years, the moon has been silent. No transmissions, no photographs, and no national pride in a great adventure.
In December of 2013, China took to spaceflight and has landed on the moon, according the Xinhau news agency. The state-run news outlet announced that Jade Rabbit had touched down on the lunar surface and that China had arrived on the world stage of space exploration. They are now among the superpower nations to achieve a lunar landing. But does a moon landing for China indicate a new space race will begin among the great nations? NASA experts say that while the U.S. cannot ignore the fact that China and other nations are entering space exploration, there is little budget money available for another moon landing. It appears that the U.S. will remain focused on Mars.
However, there is a call from many experts and astronauts to begin a cooperative program with nations like China and India, who is also planning to join the space race. Astronaut Buzz Aldrin recently stated that even though funding for space programs are far below where a superpower like America should be, we should at the least be involved and support other nations as they head into space. Aldrin also said that the way for America to stay in the forefront of space exploration is to help countries like China with their programs. Aldrin also felt that due to lack of leadership and funding of the space program, the United States was losing the ability to inspire a nation and educate the next generation. However, an existing U.S. law prohibits NASA from working with China on space exploration.
Canadian Astronaut Chris Hadfield is also calling for cooperation with other countries and their space exploration missions. Hadfield was the first Canadian astronaut to command the International Space Station. Hadfeld had flown on an American space shuttle to assist in building a Russian spaceship. He stated that this was the type of international cooperation that should be the model for the future.
China is not alone in the advances of space exploration. Aerospace consulting firm Futron Corporation has reported that along with China’s moon landing a new space race may have already begun. Their report states that there are at least 70 nations with space programs. The leading countries are Russia with 32 launches, U.S. with 19 and China with 15. Other nation of note is Iran who has announced its plans for manned space exploration.
Written by Anthony Clark