Written by: Samuel K. Sloan (SoSF Producer and Managing News Editor)
With all the recent major NASA bugetary cutbacks, mishaps and failed missions the U.S. space program is slowly be relegated to the place of collaborator, and that may not be such a bad thing.
This week’s latest news out of China is that they will join with Russia in an aggressive plan to launch a joint mission to Mars in 2009 to gather rock samples from the red planet, as well as one of its moons.
According to Ye Peijian, a leading Chinese scientist within the Chinese Academy of Space Technology, Russia will launch the spacecraft with China providing the required survey equipment to carry out the unmanned exploration of the Red Planet.
China has become the new up and coming country vying for a major place in space exploration that is currently held by the U.S., but one that is slowly slipping from NASA’s finger. This mission is designed to be another step in China’s ambitions to jump to the forefront of space exploration.
One positive sign that could indicate this is not so much a one on one race and more of a team effort marathon was Sun Laiyan’s (head of the China National Space Administration), statement that China would seek international cooperation as it prepares to explore the moon and beyond.
With China, the U.S., Russia and the European Space Agency working together in a spirit of scientific cooperation, this may well spell the age of real advancements in space exporation. If Stephen Hawking’s recent announcement that humanity can only survive if it gets to populating space is to be believed, then the only way it can happen is with international cooperation by all powers – governmental and corporate – working together.
China expects to launch its first lunar probe next year and will spend a year orbiting the moon to collect images and data on the moon’s surface and environment. The nation also plans its version of an orbiting space station in the near future.