An interplanetary mission to the Moon requires being able to escape Earth’s gravity well, which requires a very large rocket and is therefore very costly.
NASA’s planned round-the-moon mission Artemis, scheduled for 2024, will use their Space Launch System megarocket and be led by four astronauts: Reid Wiseman, Victor Glover, Christina Koch and Jeremy Hansen from Canadian Space Agency.
The United States
These new missions, unlike those undertaken 50 years ago by Apollo astronauts who spent only three or four days on the Moon at a time, will take weeks or months. Their goals include improving our understanding of the Moon, searching for reservoirs of ice reservoirs and returning samples back home for further study.
SpaceIL’s landing mission on 11 April 2019 was constructed as part of its competition for Google Lunar X Prize competition, and consists primarily of a lander with its descent stage attached to its Falcon 9 rocket for landing purposes.
LADEE (Lunar Automated Data Entry), the US government’s spacecraft to the Moon, crashed into its far side on 18 April 2014. LADEE had been testing out a high-speed lunar reentry system using accelerometers – technology which may prove helpful for future missions to Mars or beyond.
China launched a spacecraft toward the moon last month, and all going as planned it should arrive where no craft ever has before – in lunar orbit to examine its far side. Chang’e-4 will act as both a lander and rover in this mission to bring science from beyond Earth into space.
Only a handful of probes and satellites from Earth have seen the Moon’s mysterious far side, due to the tidal lock between Earth and Moon that prevents it from ever facing directly towards the Sun. Orbiters have revealed its far side is covered with hundreds of impact craters while its near side features dark lava flows leaving imprints behind as lunar mare.
Chang’e-4 will study the Moon’s surface, including its mineral composition. China plans to send another rover and orbiter in 2021, and a crewed mission is scheduled for 2030. Unfortunately for Beijing’s ambitions, NASA may not work together on these large projects due to a law added into their funding bill in 2011 that prohibits working with Chinese-owned or Chinese-affiliated entities without prior congressional approval.
Russia is suffering a blow with Luna-25’s failure, as they had long sought to demonstrate they can compete with America in space. Additionally, its crash shows just how drastically reduced Russia’s civil space program has become as funding shifts towards military priorities.
The spacecraft’s primary mission was to gather data about the Moon’s surface composition by visiting its south pole and collecting samples of soil and other materials – this would enable scientists to better understand how its formation took place.
Korolev’s design bureau created this probe, composed of two parts – an orbiter and a lander – designed to land near Boguslawsky crater at the Moon’s south pole and operate there for approximately one year.
This mission was intended to demonstrate technologies for future robotic missions and lay the groundwork for a permanent crewed lunar base being planned by Russia and China jointly, but due to sanctions imposed by Western powers for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine launch dates for these missions have already changed from original plans.
In 2007, 14 international space agencies established the International Space Exploration Coordination Group, or ISECG, to share ideas and collaborate. Members include China, Russia, United States of America, Japan and Europe – and have so far managed to remain focused and make substantial strides forward despite political upheaval across the world.
ESA (European Space Agency) has unveiled a new crew transportation vehicle designed to transport astronauts between Earth and space stations, such as the International Space Station. A future evolution of this design – subject to Esa member states’ agreement – may also enable humans to travel beyond low Earth orbit.
NASA is also currently developing the Orion spacecraft and European Service Module, or ESM. ESM-1 is already at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida for use during Artemis 1 test mission in 2022; another ESM, designated ESM-3, is in process of being assembled and integrated at Airbus cleanrooms; Italy’s Samantha Cristoforetti was the first woman ever to conduct a spacewalk this July!