The United States and NASA have paused the launch of their ambitious Artemis program in 2023, which aims to return astronauts to the moon and took a kind of sabbatical year.
But the world's most important space agency won't sit idly by. She devotes all her energy to preparing Artemis II to ensure the survival of the first three astronauts of the 21st century to fly there Moon. This is despite plans for the second Artemis mission that would see the crew return to our blue planet without even attempting to leave their footprints on the lunar surface.
So, Between the end of the Artemis I mission with the landing of the Orion capsule in the Pacific Ocean on December 11 and the launch of Artemis II, scheduled for May 2024, India, Japan and Russia have a unique opportunity to take the lead in the renewed attack take over on Earth's natural satellite. The Emirates are also working on this and are already on the right track thanks to their cooperation with the Japanese entrepreneur Takeshi Hakamada. For its part, China has committed to providing content for its already completed space station in 2023.
The four nations are vying for fourth place – after Russia, the US and China – on the short list of nations that have achieved the not-so-easy feat of reaching the lunar surface and claiming to have planted their flag there. The Moon, with its immense natural resources and privileged supremacy over Earth, is the most important and closest target of space exploration in this decade.
But neither India, nor Japan, nor Russia, much less the Emirates, have the great technological capabilities of the United States. All of them, some more than others, are far from alone in sending astronauts to Selene. But in 2023 they are determined to touch the lunar soil with robotic missions, either with surface modules or by rolling small autonomous wheeled vehicles.
Japan and its clear commitment to the moon
The Japan National Space Exploration Agency (JAXA) has a strong lunar program. The next step is the launch of the SLIM mission, a nearly 600-pound probe made possible by Mitsubishi Electric Corporation (MELCO), Japan's largest satellite manufacturer.
SLIM is scheduled to launch from Tanegashima Base aboard a Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) H-IIA launch vehicle. The date has not yet been set, but the goal is to place a surface module and a small vehicle near the lunar equator, near the Mare Nectaris crater.
The descent will occur autonomously with an accuracy of less than a hundred meters from the precisely selected point, thanks to the probe's navigation radar and advanced optical equipment. The goal of the very small rover is to penetrate the interior of the caves discovered by the Kaguya probe's high-resolution cameras in the late 2000s.
In the absence of a concrete launch date for SLIM – which is accompanied by the XRISM Ispace, which has been following a long trajectory towards the Moon since December 11th. It will reach a distance of 1.4 million kilometers from Earth on January 20 and then land on the Moon in April.
Inside Hakuto-R is the United Arab Emirates' small rover Rashid. With four wheels and a mass of 10 kilos, it is said to be the first object from an Arab country on the moon. It will travel around Hakuto-R for “at least 14 days” to study the lunar soil with its four cameras and scientific instruments, confirms the general director of the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Center, Salem al-Marri, who is responsible for it UAE space program.
India and Russia do not want to be left behind
The governments of Japan and India have agreed to fly to the moon together in 2025 as part of the LUPEX mission. But before that, the Delhi government's space agency, the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO), faces the challenge of launching an indigenous GSLV rocket in June or July with the Chandrayaan-3 probe, the Asian country's second attempt to land on the moon.
ISRO has had a new leader since January 15: 58-year-old engineer Sreedhara Panicker Somanath. and her main legacy is to remove the thorn in the side of the organization since the failure of Chandrayaan-2 three and a half years ago.
Weighing 3.8 tons, Chandrayaan-2 launched from the Satish Dhawan Space Base on the southeast coast of India on July 22, 2019 and reached lunar orbit eight days later. But on September 6, its surface module Vikram (626 kg) and the small exploration rover Pragyan (27 kg) crashed on the moon due to a malfunction in the software for the approach maneuver.
In Chandrayaan-3, the lander and rover are similar but improved over the destroyed ones. which prompted Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to express confidence that the Indian nation will “touch the moon in summer” this year.
And Russia: “The launch window for Luna-25 is planned for July-August,” confirmed Yuri Borisov, director general of the Russian Space Agency, on December 21. The 1,750 kilogram Russian probe was the first mission to our natural satellite since 1976 and was built by the specialized public company Lavochkin. His mission is to go near the South Pole to look for water. However, its main task is to validate the new technologies to be used on the future Luna-26 and Luna-27 missions, planned for the second half of the decade.
And the United States won't launch to the moon? The first Commercial Payload Services to the Moon (CLPS-1) mission is scheduled for February 25th. It is a NASA company that finances entrepreneurial projects. The lunar module Peregrine 1, an initiative of the company Astrobotic, travels on CLPS-1. And CLPS-2 is scheduled to take off in March with the lunar module Nova-C from Intuitive Machines. In 2023, the attack on the Moon will therefore continue, but on a global scale, an attack that NASA initiated in 2022.
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