A New Space Race to the Moon Has Begun

China has been on a slow march to Space, and although they had a sluggish start, their program is in high gear. In recent weeks, they made headlines with one of their space labs falling back to Earth and mostly burning up in the atmosphere, but that was a planned event and marked the end of a successful program. It was one of two space labs meant to prepare China for their own space station. They are aiming for the mid-to-late 2030s to get their first taikonauts (a term used for China National Space Administration (CNSA) astronauts) on the lunar surface.

Russia is also focused on the moon. Next year they hope to launch a lunar rover. They have two more lunar missions planned after that. Putin recently said he hopes to have cosmonauts on the moon as well.

Former Astronaut and U.S senator from New Mexico Harrison Schmitt. He was one of the last people to walk on the Moon as a crew member of Apollo 17 in December 1972. This photo was taken December 7, 2017 during a press conference at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama. (Image credit: Alejandro Rojas)

I got the chance last December to ask one of the last humans to walk on the moon, Harrison Schmitt, a few questions at a press conference commemorating the 45th anniversary of the Apollo 17 mission. There were rumors about NASA refocusing on getting back to the moon, so I asked Schmitt if he felt we would soon be in another space race to the moon. He told me, “I think it has already started.”

Harrison Schmitt stands to the left of President Trump (right of the President in this image) during the signing of Space Policy Directive 1 on December 11, 2017. NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson (right of Schmitt) was also in attendance. (Image credit: NASA/Aubrey Gemignani)

Just a few days later, Schmitt was standing next to President Trump as the President signed a new NASA directive making the Moon our new focus, putting Mars on the back burner.

To read more about this, including details on the Chinese and Russian lunar programs, check out my story “How Russia and China Ignited the New Space Race to the Moon” on Den of Geek.

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