Space exploration is an expensive and risky affair, even with the modern day advances in technology. Vast amounts of money are used in the research, development, and launching of probes into space as well as when training astronauts. There is also a very high chance that things could go wrong as accidents do happen like the Challenger Disaster of 1986 and the Columbus Space Shuttle Explosion in 2003. The United States is the only country to have ever put people on the moon. However, Russia (the USSR), Japan, China, the European Space Agency, and India have all made visits to the moon via probes.
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) carried out famous moon landings including the one in 1969 that took the first man to the moon, Neil Armstrong. Before this achievement, there were unmanned probes that were sent to the moon with the aim of conducting scientific studies that would give the US prestige and an edge in national security there. The US has launched further probes to the moon with the latest being on September 7, 2013, where the LADEE probe mission began and ended on April 18, 2014.
Due to the Cold War with the US, the USSR carried out space explorations with the aim of getting prestige ahead of the Americans. This was known as the Space Race. Tests were conducted in secrecy to avoid any leakage of plans that would reach the west. Like the Americans, the Soviets at first experienced setbacks and built up on its success of sending the first man into space, Yuri Gagarin, by sending lunar missions to the moon. The Lunar Missions were unmanned and were conducted from 1958 to 1976. Information about the tests and launches were revealed after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.
Japan rose from the ashes of the Second World War and occupation to not only become an economic success story but also send a space probe to the moon. Japan launched two orbits, the Hiten and Selene, that both orbited the moon before crashing on its surface as planned. The Hiten probe was launched on January 24, 1990, and crashed on April 10, 1993, while the Selene orbiter was launched September 14, 2007, and crashed on June 10, 2009.
China has also launched two lunar orbiters to the moon, the first one being on October 24, 2007, and it was called the Chang’e-1. The orbit completed its 16-month mission and crashed on March 1, 2009. The second lunar orbit called Chang’e-3 managed to land a rover on the surface of the moon.
India has already successfully launched a probe to the moon that crashed on March 1, 2009, after its launch on October 22, 2008. The probe was dubbed the Chandraayan-1 and the second Chanraayan is slated for launch in 2019.
European Space Agency
The European Space Agency (ESA) drove by the moon in 2003 with the SMART-1. It took clear images of the moon before crashing into it as planned.
The Moon: To Visit or Not to Visit?
Unlike before, when moon landings were a source of pride for many, today’s fiscal problems and environmental concerns are causing many people to question the wisdom of launching probes into space. There is a need for developing new technologies that will be both cheap to the taxpayers and friendly to the environment.