Thanks to the landing of its SLIM probe on the Moon this Saturday, Japan joined the select list of countries that managed to land on an Earth satellite, including plans to resume manned flights.
The United States is the only country that sent astronauts to the Moon from 1969 to 1972 within the framework of the Apollo program.
NASA then ignored the satellite for a long time for budgetary reasons, among other reasons, but in 2017 it launched the Artemis program, which provides for the return of astronauts, including for the first time a woman and a black man. .
interest is reborn
The United States space agency also wants to build a base on the surface of the Moon and a space station in its orbit.
However, the first two crewed missions of that program, Artemis 2 and 3, were recently postponed to September 2025 and September 2026.
NASA currently partners with private companies to reduce costs, but this also makes it more dependent.
The Starship rocket commissioned from private company SpaceX for Artemis 3 is not ready yet, after it exploded during its first two test flights last year. A new test should be conducted in February.
Astrobotic, another private American company hired by NASA to send scientific material to the Moon, announced on January 10 that its lunar landing module was experiencing serious problems since takeoff and its landing on the Moon. There was “no chance”.
Russia’s frustrated ambitions
Russia failed in its attempt last year to land its Luna-25 spacecraft on the Moon, its first mission to Earth’s satellite since 1976.
After shining in the times of the now defunct Soviet Union, the Russian space sector has been plagued by a number of problems due to inadequate funding, corruption and Moscow’s isolation since the invasion of Ukraine in 2022.
President Vladimir Putin nevertheless promised to maintain funding for lunar missions. In addition, Russia was linked to the Chinese project to establish a lunar base, which competes with the American Artemis program.
The Asian giant plans to send astronauts to the Moon before 2030 and its main objective is to build a base there.
China sent its first astronaut into space in 2003, long after the Soviets and Americans did so in 1961, in the midst of the Cold War, but its space program gained momentum thanks to a multimillion-dollar investment.
China achieved its first moon landing in 2013.
In 2019, they accomplished a historic feat: landing a spacecraft on the far side of the Moon.
In 2020, he managed to bring back a ship with lunar samples, an operation that had not been achieved in more than 40 years.
In 2021 he managed to land a robot on Mars.
This year, a new Chinese mission should bring Moon samples to Earth.
rise of india
Although it already has much more modest means than the consolidated space powers, last year India managed to land an unmanned spacecraft, Chandrayaan-3, near the Moon’s south pole. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi wants to send an Indian to the Moon by 2040.
In the short term, the country plans to send a new probe to the polar regions of the Moon in 2025 in collaboration with Japan.
Japan’s first success
A feat achieved this Saturday by Japan, which landed its SLIM space module precisely on the surface of the Moon, after two failed attempts. However, the investigation documented problems with the solar panels, causing energy production to stop.
In 2022, the island nation unsuccessfully sent the Omotenashi lunar probe as part of the US Artemis 1 mission.
In April 2023, startup iSpace attempted to become the first private firm to reach the Moon, but lost contact with its spacecraft after a “hard landing”.
other minor actors
The European Space Agency (ESA) has also been interested in the Moon, particularly with international cooperation such as the United States and Japan.
South Korea aims to place its Denuri probe into lunar orbit in late 2022 and land an instrument on the Moon in 2032.
Intuitive Machines, an American startup that has been appointed by NASA for a logistics lunar mission, will try its luck this year.
So far, no private company has managed to land on the Moon.