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US won’t be returning to moon, NASA chief


US won’t be returning to moon, NASA chief

America won’t be repeating that historic one small step anytime soon — not according to NASA chief Charlie Bolden, anyway.

“NASA is not going to the Moon with a human as a primary project probably in my lifetime,” Bolden told a joint meeting of the Space Studies Board and the Aeronautics and Space Engineering Board in Washington last week, according to Jeff Foust of SpacePolitics.com. “And the reason is, we can only do so many things.”

Instead, he said the focus would remain on human missions to asteroids and to Mars. “We intend to do that, and we think it can be done.” Meanwhile, interest in the moon has been growing in both the private sector and in foreign countries.

Last week, Russia rekindled its plans for a robotic moon exploration program, unveiling its first new moon mission since the Soviet Union launched Luna 24 in 1976. Russian space scientists are scripting a new plan to reconnect with the moon, one scientist explained.

“Exploration of the moon is an important part of the program,” said Igor Mitrofanov of the Institute for Space Research during Microsymposium 54 on “Lunar Farside and Poles — New Destinations for Exploration,” held in The Woodlands, Texas, on March 16 and 17.

‘I just want to emphasize that Russia is a spacefaring country not only with the robotic but also manned flight,” he added.

And private interest in the moon as a resource is heating up. Several companies have announced plans to mine the moon, thought to contain a ransom in precious minerals including titanium, platinum, and helium 3, a rare isotope of helium that many feel could be the future of energy on Earth and in space.

Moon Express, one of the companies targeting the moon and competing in Google’s Lunar X Prize to reach our satellite, recently said it plans a mission to begin exploring the moon in 2015.

In his remarks last Thursday, NASA’s Bolden acknowledged the widespread interest in the moon from other nations, and said his agency would be willing to help.

“They all have dreams of putting humans on the Moon,” he said. “I have told every head of agency of every partner agency that if you assume the lead in a human lunar mission, NASA will be a part of that. NASA wants to be a participant.”

Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/science/2013/04/08/us-wont-be-returning-to-moon-nasa-chief-says/?intcmp=features#ixzz2PszH1DHe
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How China may be the next to land on the moon

How China may be the next to land on the moon

AFPBy Sebastien Blanc

Chinese astronauts Liu Wang, Jing Haipeng and Liu Yang in the Shenzhou-9 spacecraft during a manned space mission which includes China’s first female astronaut on June 24. Neil Armstrong’s 1969 lunar landing marked a pinnacle of US technological achievement, defining what many saw as the American century, but the next person to set foot on the moon will likely be Chinese

US astronauts Neil Armstrong and “Buzz” Aldrin deploy the US flag on the lunar surface during the Apollo 11 lunar landing mission in 1969. Armstrong’s 1969 lunar landing marked a pinnacle of US technological achievement, defining what many saw as the American century, but the next person to set foot on the moon will likely be Chinese

Neil Armstrong’s 1969 lunar landing marked a pinnacle of US technological achievement, defining what many saw as the American century, but the next person to set foot on the moon will likely be Chinese.

As the United States has scaled back its manned space programme to cut costs — a move strongly criticised by Armstrong, who died on Saturday — Asian nations have aggressively expanded into space exploration.

China, Japan and India all have their own space programmes. New Delhi, which envisages its first manned mission in 2016, recently unveiled ambitious plans to launch a space probe that would orbit Mars.

Japan participates in the International Space Station programme and launched its first lunar probe in 2007. It is planning a follow-up that it hopes will find “organic substances or minerals containing water” on an asteroid.

But experts say that China, which as recently as the 1980s was focused solely on developing satellites, is the closest to landing an astronaut on the moon.

Beijing launched its manned space programme in 1999 and has developed rapidly since, sending its first astronaut into space in 2003 and completing a space walk in 2008.

This year, it conducted its first manned space docking — the latest step towards setting up a space station — during a mission that included its first woman in space.

In its last white paper on space, China said it was working towards landing a man on the moon — a feat so far only achieved by the United States, most recently in 1972 — although it did not give a time frame.

It will attempt to land an exploratory craft on the moon for the first time in the second half of 2013 and transmit back a survey of the lunar surface.

“Nobody knows where the next astronauts on the moon will come from. But I expect there is a good chance that they will be Chinese,” said Morris Jones, an Australian space expert.

“China’s space programme is moving steadily forward. If they continue at this pace, they will develop the capability to reach the moon around 2030.”

China’s space programme remains far behind that of the United States — as evidenced by the fact that the recent manual space docking trumpeted by Beijing was mastered by the United States in the 1960s.

US President Barack Obama said in 2010 he would drop the costly Constellation space programme, killing off future moon exploration.

But the United States is developing a new rocket, and this month landed a rover the size of a car on Mars for a two-year mission to explore the Red Planet for signs it could support life.

Beijing has spent about 39 billion yuan ($6.1 billion) on its manned space programme since it began 20 years ago, state media have said.

It sees the programme as a symbol of its rising global stature, growing technical expertise, and the Communist Party’s success in turning around the fortunes of the once poverty-stricken nation.

Experts, however, say national pride is just one of the motivating factors in China’s ambitious space programme.

“Trips to the moon have always involved prestige, but there is also science,” said Jones. “A new trend could involve mining the moon for nuclear fuel. China has made no secret of their interest in this possibility.”

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