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Moonwalkers

Words: Joan McFadden 

January’s full moon is known by many as the Wolf Moon – tradition has it that wolves were more likely to be heard howling to each other at this time. The Moon has been a source of fascination since life on Earth began – we can assume – and, as NASA counts down to its first mission there for 50 years, it is clear that it isn’t just the US, Russia and the UK that are immersed in space programmes. Whether it’s designing pitstops on the Moon or developing the ultimate cybersecurity, this is the space to watch. 

Another giant leap for mankind 

On 14 July 2023, India became the fourth country in the world to carry out a soft landing on the Moon with the success of its third lunar exploration mission, the Chandrayaan-3. Landing closer to the south pole region than any other spacecraft in history, it deployed a rover to analyse the lunar surface.  

Finding out more about the underexplored south pole region is vital as it’s believed that this region of the Moon might contain deposits of ice water, hence NASA’s 2025 aim to land in the same area. The extraction and use of water from this potential space ‘filling station’ could facilitate prolonged lunar missions and also provide a springboard to Mars and perhaps even deeper into space. We’re a long way yet from Captain Kirk’s Enterprise adventures but from tiny acorns… 

The race for celestial supremacy 

For more than 25 years the International Space Station has orbited 425km above Earth with more than 200 astronauts from 19 different countries working there. Now China’s Tiangong space station is doing likewise, with astronauts living and working on it since 2021.  

China’s current lunar mission to bring back the first samples ever collected from the Moon’s far side is apparently on schedule for this year, with plans to send astronauts there this decade. The Chang’e-7 mission in 2026 aims to gather valuable data towards building a permanent international research station on the lunar south pole by 2040.  

The Chang’e-8 mission targeting 2028, meanwhile, is hoping to cooperate with other countries and international organisations on realising a spacecraft launch and orbit operation, spacecraft-to-spacecraft interactions and explorations of the Moon’s surface.  

Playing catch up 

Despite constant talk of collaboration, this is also a space race with increasingly intensifying international competition, and Japan aims to become the world’s fifth country to land an object on the Moon.  

It has some way to go here as its background in space travel is considerably slower than the major players. Its first mission beyond Earth’s orbit was comparatively late – in the 1980s – and a 1998 orbiter aiming for Mars had electrical problems. However, elements of the International Space Station Program were constructed in Japan in the late 1980s and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency is one of five countries operating hardware on board.  

In 2007, Japan took a major leap forward when its lunar orbit explorer, Kaguya, created the most detailed topographical model of the Moon to date. And last year the Japanese government announced the establishment of a $6.6 billion fund to develop the country’s space industry.   

Out of this world  

France is one of Europe’s leading space nations and the largest contributor to the European Space Agency, with the fourth largest budget for space programmes worldwide. Its National Centre of Space Studies is adapting and developing new approaches and tools in a range of areas, including current economic and technological drivers in the space domain and ways to meet the major challenges of tomorrow’s space sector.  

Future planning is also focusing on cybersecurity, which is a growing concern worldwide. Secure telecommunications satellites, such as the new generation Syracuse 4A, equip the French Armed Forces with secure means of communications that are accessible in all scenarios. As a result, France could play a leading role among its European partners in future space programmes in which cybersecurity is seen as of the utmost importance. 

Reaching for the stars 

Brazil is one of the few countries in the world developing its own technologies, including rockets, satellite engines and spacecraft engines. However, like many other countries, budget constraints are hampering its research and the expansion of infrastructure. And this in turn affects its ability to take part in international cooperative space projects.  

In 2022, Brazil’s space budget was set at $40 million USD, a fraction compared to NASA’s funding of $25.3bn for this year alone. However, this ambitious South American nation aims to continue its satellite development and remote sensing – expanding its Earth observation capabilities, international collaborations and commercial space activities. 

Up in the air 

Australia shares Brazil’s space race frustrations despite having a space programme which started relatively early, in the 1950s. Lack of funds is a constant refrain. In 2022 the country announced funding of $1.2bn for a National Space Mission for Earth Observation (NSMEO) – the design, build and operation of four new satellites to gather data on natural disasters, agriculture and weather, and conduct marine surveillance for the Department of Defence. However, within a year, three projects were cancelled, including a sub-programme of the Moon to Mars Program.  

This would seem to be a short-sighted decision – the programme was aimed at helping space organisations be part of the supply chain for NASA’s plans to go to the Moon within a decade and then on to Mars. However, the announcement that Sydney will host the 76th International Astronautical Congress (IAC) from 29 September to 3 October 2025 has raised hopes that further funding will be forthcoming as this is the International Astronautical Federation’s (IAF) premier global space event.  

Is the Moon made of cheese? 

Join everyone’s favourite duo Wallace and Gromit on A Grand Day Out to the Moon.

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Moonwalkers

Words: Joan McFadden 

January’s full moon is known by many as the Wolf Moon – tradition has it that wolves were more likely to be heard howling to each other at this time. The Moon has been a source of fascination since life on Earth began – we can assume – and, as NASA counts down to its first mission there for 50 years, it is clear that it isn’t just the US, Russia and the UK that are immersed in space programmes. Whether it’s designing pitstops on the Moon or developing the ultimate cybersecurity, this is the space to watch. 

Another giant leap for mankind 

On 14 July 2023, India became the fourth country in the world to carry out a soft landing on the Moon with the success of its third lunar exploration mission, the Chandrayaan-3. Landing closer to the south pole region than any other spacecraft in history, it deployed a rover to analyse the lunar surface.  

Finding out more about the underexplored south pole region is vital as it’s believed that this region of the Moon might contain deposits of ice water, hence NASA’s 2025 aim to land in the same area. The extraction and use of water from this potential space ‘filling station’ could facilitate prolonged lunar missions and also provide a springboard to Mars and perhaps even deeper into space. We’re a long way yet from Captain Kirk’s Enterprise adventures but from tiny acorns… 

The race for celestial supremacy 

For more than 25 years the International Space Station has orbited 425km above Earth with more than 200 astronauts from 19 different countries working there. Now China’s Tiangong space station is doing likewise, with astronauts living and working on it since 2021.  

China’s current lunar mission to bring back the first samples ever collected from the Moon’s far side is apparently on schedule for this year, with plans to send astronauts there this decade. The Chang’e-7 mission in 2026 aims to gather valuable data towards building a permanent international research station on the lunar south pole by 2040.  

The Chang’e-8 mission targeting 2028, meanwhile, is hoping to cooperate with other countries and international organisations on realising a spacecraft launch and orbit operation, spacecraft-to-spacecraft interactions and explorations of the Moon’s surface.  

Playing catch up 

Despite constant talk of collaboration, this is also a space race with increasingly intensifying international competition, and Japan aims to become the world’s fifth country to land an object on the Moon.  

It has some way to go here as its background in space travel is considerably slower than the major players. Its first mission beyond Earth’s orbit was comparatively late – in the 1980s – and a 1998 orbiter aiming for Mars had electrical problems. However, elements of the International Space Station Program were constructed in Japan in the late 1980s and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency is one of five countries operating hardware on board.  

In 2007, Japan took a major leap forward when its lunar orbit explorer, Kaguya, created the most detailed topographical model of the Moon to date. And last year the Japanese government announced the establishment of a $6.6 billion fund to develop the country’s space industry.   

Out of this world  

France is one of Europe’s leading space nations and the largest contributor to the European Space Agency, with the fourth largest budget for space programmes worldwide. Its National Centre of Space Studies is adapting and developing new approaches and tools in a range of areas, including current economic and technological drivers in the space domain and ways to meet the major challenges of tomorrow’s space sector.  

Future planning is also focusing on cybersecurity, which is a growing concern worldwide. Secure telecommunications satellites, such as the new generation Syracuse 4A, equip the French Armed Forces with secure means of communications that are accessible in all scenarios. As a result, France could play a leading role among its European partners in future space programmes in which cybersecurity is seen as of the utmost importance. 

Reaching for the stars 

Brazil is one of the few countries in the world developing its own technologies, including rockets, satellite engines and spacecraft engines. However, like many other countries, budget constraints are hampering its research and the expansion of infrastructure. And this in turn affects its ability to take part in international cooperative space projects.  

In 2022, Brazil’s space budget was set at $40 million USD, a fraction compared to NASA’s funding of $25.3bn for this year alone. However, this ambitious South American nation aims to continue its satellite development and remote sensing – expanding its Earth observation capabilities, international collaborations and commercial space activities. 

Up in the air 

Australia shares Brazil’s space race frustrations despite having a space programme which started relatively early, in the 1950s. Lack of funds is a constant refrain. In 2022 the country announced funding of $1.2bn for a National Space Mission for Earth Observation (NSMEO) – the design, build and operation of four new satellites to gather data on natural disasters, agriculture and weather, and conduct marine surveillance for the Department of Defence. However, within a year, three projects were cancelled, including a sub-programme of the Moon to Mars Program.  

This would seem to be a short-sighted decision – the programme was aimed at helping space organisations be part of the supply chain for NASA’s plans to go to the Moon within a decade and then on to Mars. However, the announcement that Sydney will host the 76th International Astronautical Congress (IAC) from 29 September to 3 October 2025 has raised hopes that further funding will be forthcoming as this is the International Astronautical Federation’s (IAF) premier global space event.  

Is the Moon made of cheese? 

Join everyone’s favourite duo Wallace and Gromit on A Grand Day Out to the Moon.

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