Exploring Earth's Moon
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Japan, China, Europe and the United States all have designs on the Moon. China would like to send a probe to the Moon by 2006. NASA is thinking of sending yet another robot explorer to the lunar surface. And the European Space Agency (ESA) launched its SMART-1 probe to the Moon in 2003 (image below).
SMART stands for "Small Missions for Advanced Research in Technology." The European Space Agency (ESA) uses SMART spacecraft to test new technologies.
SMART-1, the first probe in the program, tests ESA's solar electric propulsion system for future deep-space missions. When would it be used again? ESA's future BepiColombo mission to the planet Mercury might use such an electric propulsion motor.
SMART-1 will orbit the Moon for at least six months — the first European spacecraft to go to the Moon. The spacecraft will conduct scientific observations from lunar orbit.
European SMART-1 Moon flight »
Japan explores the Moon. The Japanese lunar penetrator mission, Lunar-A, will be launched in 2004 in an attempt to explore inside the Moon. It will use seismometers and heat-flow probes installed in ground penetrators to study the lunar interior. Two penetrators will be deployed on the lunar surface – one on the nearside of the Moon and one on the farside.
After Lunar-A, the Asian nation will carry out additional Moon research with a more sophisticated orbiter with a lander – SELenological and ENgineering Explorer (SELENE) to be launched in 2006. SELENE will look for evidence of the origin and evolution of the Moon. Its science data will be used to prepare for future explorations of the Moon.
Japanese Moon flights »
China to explore the Moon. China also plans to explore the Moon. First, the Asian nation would like to build a series of robot probes to be launched on Long March rockets to land and explore the lunar surface. That research would be followed by manned flights and eventually colonization of the Moon. China would like to be able to send its first unmanned probe to the Moon by September 2005.
Chinese Moon flight »
India will explore the Moon. India has announced that it plans to explore the Moon and will send an unmanned probe there before 2008. The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) project is called Chandrayan Pratham, which means First Journey to the Moon or Moonshot One. Chandrayan Pratham would carry x-ray and gamma-ray spectrometers and would send back data that scientists on Earth would use to produce a high-resolution digital map of the lunar surface.
Indian Moon flight »
Future lunar spacecraft: