Moonward bound

The Moon, long ignored by space agencies, is about to get a lot busier

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The Moon has long held a fascination for those of us on Mother Earth. On 12 September 1959, the Russian Luna-2 mission impacted on the Moon’s surface, kicking of a decade long scramble to get to the Moon, culminating in the historic Apollo landings.

But for the last 40 years the Moon has been a much quieter place. After the initial flurry of excitement, space missions have focused on exploring and exploiting other areas of the Solar System.  

But now a brand new spate of missions are being sent back to the Moon. The first of them, China’s Chang’e 3 lander and rover, has already set down on the surface, landing on 14 December 2013. In the coming decade a whole array of missions are bound for the lunar surface, from countries such as Russia, India, China and even private companies in the guise of the competitors of the Google Lunar X Prize.

The history and nature of the Moon have always been shrouded in mystery, but these new missions headed towards the lunar surface will hope to uncover some of the secrets hidden in the face of our nearest neighbour.


 

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