The Space Race is back on… But this time it doesn’t involve the US or Russia. This is your SpacePod for October 11th, 2010

We’re back! Maybe we should take a break more often. While Spacevidcast was on hiatus we found an exoplanet that could be earth like, Discovery rolled out to the pad, and China launched a lunar probe. Yup, China’s going to the moon. Er… I mean they are already there.

On October 1st The China National Space Administration launched Chang’e 2 aboard a Long March 3C rocket.

Once in space the satellite would do a pretty direct beline to the moon and is the first time the Chinese space program has put a satellite in to earth-moon transfer orbit without having to circle the Earth first. This of course meant that the vehicle had quite a bit of oomph when reaching the moon and it would need to successfully carry out 3 braking maneuvers to get in to a stable lunar orbit. On Saturday, October 9th that’s exactly what it did as it successfully carried out the third and final braking maneuver putting Chang’e 2 in to a 100km high position above Luna.

Now that China has their second satellite around the moon they will carry out recon for their next phase of the Chinese Lunar Exploration Program. Chang’e 2 is the last craft in phase 1 then Phase 2 will have Chang’e 3 which will put lunar rovers on the moon some time around 2013. Phase 3 will continue building upon their previous missions with Chang’e 4 automating the return of lunar soil back to Earth some time around 2017. What does all of this add up to? Well China is looking to put humans on the moon some time around 2025.

But hang on! This space race can’t just have one contestant! India is not going to let China beat them to the punch! The Indian Space Research Organization has targeted 2020 as the date that they want to put humans back on the moon. Back in 2008 India had a successful unmanned lunar mission with Chandrayaan-1 and in 2013 they are looking to expand on that success with Chandrayaan-2.

This is all great news! We’ll be watching with baited breath to see who really puts humans back on the moon first: China, India or maybe a possible third as of yet unknown variable such as SpaceX or Armadillo or Masten Space Systems. Who knows, but it sure is fun to watch!

For now we’ll just wait for some of the high-resolution imagery from Chang’e 2 to come back. China will be taking a close look at the lava-flooded Bay of Rainbows as that could be a possible landing site for Chang’e 3. And by the way… Does anyone else want to hit a big red button to launch a giant rocket? I know I do!


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