Even though the cold war ended over 20 years ago, the space race in the 21st century is bringing back a competition for the moon. And Russia and the USA are not the only players involved anymore with China and even India planning on exploring the moon in the next few decades. Although the European space agency has not officially declared any intent on landing on the moon, don’t be surprised if they too enter the race in the coming years. The official plan for basically all of these countries (exception India) will be to land humans on the moon and stay there by building a base. This base will serve as a stepping stone for the planned journey to Mars around 2030.
The USA was to be the first to land and establish a base on the moon between 2018-2020. While this is still a goal of NASA to build this base, President Obama’s recent space plans have eliminated the Constellation Program which was the main component of going back to the moon. NASA is still determined to return to the moon’s surface in the next decade or two but will need more backing from the government in order to make this happen. It is with hope that I believe that we will build this base and be the first colonists of the moon in the next two decades.
The second country to attempt landing on the moon will be China in 2021. China has recently become a major player in the space race and takes great pride in its achievements. Over the past few years they have launched several manned missions into space with one even conducting a spacewalk. Almost all of their technology and equipment was provided to them from the Russians but they are currently building their own spacecraft and rockets. Another thing that China is planning on will be the Chang’e 2 lunar rover planned for launch in 2012 which will analyze topography along with finding a decent place to build their base. The Chinese are also planning on building a space station as early as 2011 with three spacecraft docking together to form the station(these are all called Shenzhou-8, 9, 10).
The last country that has official plans for landing on the moon is Russia in 2025. Although Russia will be several years behind both the Americans and Chinese when it comes to the moon, they will be building a new space station to replace the ISS around 2020 and will dedicating most funds to this program. Along with the plans for landing on the moon, Russia also has its eye on landing on Mars and will be sending a satellite to one of Mar‘s two moons, Phobos, in 2010 with the hopes of it returning to Earth with soil samples.
India has no official plans yet to land on the moon but has already sent a probe that crashed into the moon’s surface in 2008 called Chandrayaan. In 2011, India is also planning on sending Chandrayaan-2 which is their lunar rover. India is planning on sending their first astronaut into space in the year 2015.
In conclusion, it appears that if all current plans stay on course then the Americans or the Chinese will be the first on the moon to establish their bases. I think this is an important goal for NASA and will put more people interested in space exploration. Over the past few decades with our astronauts hanging around low earth orbit, it seems that public support and interest has been waning in the space programs. If, however, we do go back to the moon and establish a base and then go onto Mars, it will certainly bring millions of people back to the space missions like we had in the late 60‘s and early 70‘s. The Obama administration cannot let this fail and have other countries outrace us to the moon. It‘s time to show our superiority again and beat everyone back to the moon.