Like similar announcements by predecessor presidents about spectacular — but speculative — missions to Mars, the follow-through for a new Moon shot has so far been largely lacking.
Meanwhile, China late last year placed a probe and lander in one of the Moon’s most significant features — the unexplored South Pole-Aitken basin. It’s the biggest known impact structure in the solar system, and it is suspected of containing reserves of water ice and the rare isotope helium-3, both of which could fuel a colony and further space exploration.
HOWLING AT THE MOON
NASA has largely been living off the successes of space projects launched up to a decade ago — including the now ‘dead’ Mars Opportunity rover. It hopes to launch its first manned space flight since the demise of the Space Shuttle program in 2011.
It’s been relying on the Russians to get its crew to the International Space Station ever since.
Earlier this year, China scored the first successful sprouting of plants from seeds during the ongoing Chang’e-4 mission which placed the first-ever probe on the far side of the Moon.
India is also in the race. Its first attempt to launch last year was delayed. But it has a probe ready to go as soon as its rocket is ready.
Other projects, including a private mission from a now defunct Google competition and an Israeli probe, are also set to go.