Japan has joined an elite club by landing on the moon. Here’s what others are doing

Folks increase their fingers after a moon touchdown by the Sensible Lander for Investigating Moon (SLIM), in a public viewing occasion in Sagamihara, south of Tokyo, Japan, Jan. 20, 2024. Picture by Kim Kyung-Hoon/Reuters

TOKYO (AP) — Japan landed a spacecraft on the moon Saturday, an try on the world’s first “pinpoint lunar touchdown.” The milestone places Japan in a membership beforehand occupied by solely the US, the Soviet Union, India and China.

A raft of nations and corporations are additionally plotting moon missions. Success means worldwide scientific and diplomatic accolades and potential home political beneficial properties. Failure means a really costly, and public, embarrassment.

This is a take a look at high-profile latest and upcoming makes an attempt, and what they could imply.


NASA plans to ship astronauts to fly across the moon subsequent yr, and to land there in 2026.

Simply this week, nevertheless, a U.S. firm, Astrobotic Know-how, stated its lunar lander will quickly deplete in Earth’s environment after a failed moonshot.

The lander, named Peregrine, developed a gasoline leak that pressured Astrobotic to desert its try to make the primary U.S. lunar touchdown in additional than 50 years. The corporate suspects a caught valve induced a tank to rupture.

NASA is working to commercialize lunar deliveries by personal companies whereas the U.S. authorities tries to get astronauts again to the moon.

For now, the US’ potential to spend giant sums and marshal provide chains give it a bonus over China and different moon rivals. Personal sector gamers equivalent to SpaceX and Blue Origin have made crewed house missions a precedence.

One other U.S. firm, Intuitive Machines, plans to launch its personal lunar lander subsequent month.


Final yr, India turned the primary nation to land a spacecraft close to the moon’s south pole, the place scientists imagine that perpetually darkened craters might maintain frozen water that would support future missions.

In 2019, a software program glitch induced an Indian lander to crash on its lunar descent. So the $75 million success in August introduced widespread jubilation, with folks cheering within the streets and declaring India’s rise as a scientific superpower.

READ MORE: How India’s rover findings of sulfur in lunar soil may pave the best way for future moon bases

Indian scientists stated that the subsequent step is a manned lunar mission.

The success is seen as key to boosting Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s reputation earlier than an important basic election this yr.

India has been pushing for an area program for the reason that Sixties and goals to go to the Worldwide House Station subsequent yr in collaboration with the US.

New Delhi additionally sees victory in house as essential in its rivalry with nuclear-armed neighbor China. Relations between India and China have plunged since lethal border clashes in 2020.


China landed on the moon in 2013, and final yr launched a three-person crew for its orbiting house station. It hopes to place astronauts on the moon earlier than the tip of the last decade.

In 2020, a Chinese language capsule returned to Earth from the moon with the primary contemporary lunar rock samples in additional than 40 years. China’s first manned house mission in 2003 made it the third nation after the united states and the US to place an individual into house.

China’s house ambitions are linked to its rivalry with the US because the world’s two largest economies compete for diplomatic, political and navy affect in Asia and past.

China constructed its personal house station after it was excluded from the Worldwide House Station, partially due to U.S. objections over the Chinese language house program’s intimate ties to the navy.

China and the US are additionally contemplating plans for everlasting crewed bases on the moon. That has raised questions on competitors and cooperation on the lunar floor.


Additionally final yr, Russia’s Luna-25 failed in its try and land in the identical space of the moon that India reached.

It got here 47 years after the Soviets landed on the moon, and Russian scientists blamed that lengthy break, and the accompanying lack of house experience, for the latest failure.

READ MORE: Russia’s lunar mission failure raises questions on state of house program

The Soviets launched the primary satellite tv for pc in house in 1957 and put the primary human in house in 1961, however Russia’s program has struggled for the reason that 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union amid widespread corruption and Western sanctions which have damage scientific growth.

Russia is planning for an additional moon mission in 2027.

Russia’s failures and the rising function of personal corporations like Elon Musk’s SpaceX have price Russia its once-sizable area of interest within the profitable international house launch market.

Simply as India’s success was seen as proof of its rise to nice energy standing, Russia’s failure has been portrayed by some as casting doubt on its international affect and power.

Related Press journalists world wide contributed to this report.


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