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Renewed interest in lunar exploration

PThree times in late summer, the moon was the target of a space mission. On August 19, the Russian Luna-25 lander experienced an anomaly during final descent and crashed into the surface of our satellite. A failure that prevents Moscow from reconnecting with its distant and glorious past – in 1976, the Soviet probe Luna-24 returned soil samples of selenium – and starkly illustrates the loss of Russian space expertise in exploration missions. Another story on August 23 when India became the fourth country to land on the moon with its Chandrayaan-3 mission. Finally, on September 7, Japan launched its SLIM probe, which, if all goes well, will become the fifth country to land on our moon.

Even if each of these three missions turns out to be modest in scale, this trio is not anecdotal, as it is added to the main programs carried out by two leading world powers: the United States actually leads the Artemis program (which also includes the European, Canadian and Japanese space agencies), which aims aims to send humans to the moon within a few years, while China has dutifully completed every phase of its Chang’e project since 2007, with major successes such as the first rover. on the far side of the Moon in 2019 and the pattern will return the following year. Beijing does not hide its ambition to send its astronauts to set foot on the lunar soil by 2030 and even install a permanent base there.

Why this renewed interest in lunar exploration, which was launched after the end of the Apollo program in 1972? The reasons are many, but as India’s display of pride after Chandrayaan-3’s successful landing shows, the explanation of national prestige should not be overlooked. Added to this is the fact that it belongs to a very exclusive club of major space powers, synonymous with modernity and advanced technology. The moon symbolizes the spirit of conquest and it is not surprising to see Narendra Modi, Xi Jinping or Donald Trump, who launched the Artemis program during his presidency, enthusiastically.

The impulse is given

On the other hand, it would be a mistake to transfer the 1960s to the moon in our time, replacing the former USSR with China. With the Artemis and Chang’e programs, neither Washington nor Beijing is trying to prove to the world the supremacy of its model of society, as was the case during the Cold War. The competition between the United States and China is largely artificial because, even if the delay risks the Americans walking on the moon again in December 2025, as planned, their space technology remains far more advanced than China’s. He continues to study, to achieve his goal, and methodically reproduces what his Soviet and American predecessors achieved in the 20th century.e century.

Source: Le Monde



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