China lands a probe on the far side of the Moon

Via space.com:

Humanity just planted its flag on the far side of the moon.

China’s robotic Chang’e 4 mission touched down on the floor of the 115-mile-wide (186 kilometers) Von Kármán Crater Wednesday night (Jan. 2), pulling off the first-ever soft landing on the mysterious lunar far side.

Chang’e 4 will perform a variety of science work over the coming months, potentially helping scientists better understand the structure, formation and evolution of Earth’s natural satellite. But the symbolic pull of the mission will resonate more with the masses: The list of unexplored locales in our solar system just got a little shorter. [Watch: China’s Historic Landing on the Moon’s Far Side!]

Congrats to China.  Hopefully this lights a fire under us to do the same.  Though it seems like we’re more focused on manned flight to the Moon with private partnerships.  Via nasa.gov:

Dec. 13, 2018

NASA Seeks US Partners to Develop Reusable Systems to Land Astronauts on Moon

As the next major step to return astronauts to the Moon under Space Policy Directive-1, NASA announced plans on Dec. 13 to work with American companies to design and develop new reusable systems for astronauts to land on the lunar surface. The agency is planning to test new human-class landers on the Moon beginning in 2024, with the goal of sending crew to the surface in 2028.

Through upcoming multi-phased lunar exploration partnerships, NASA will ask American companies to study the best approach to landing astronauts on the Moon and start the development as quickly as possible with current and future anticipated technologies.

“Building on our model in low-Earth orbit, we’ll expand our partnerships with industry and other nations to explore the Moon and advance our missions to farther destinations such as Mars, with America leading the way,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. “When we send astronauts to the surface of the Moon in the next decade, it will be in a sustainable fashion.”

You’d think it would take us less than 10 years to develop the technology to land on the Moon if we had been there 50 years ago, right?  Why are we “building on our model in low-Earth orbit” if we should already have a model of actually having gone to the Moon?  The chief problem to getting a crew there and back still seems to be the Van Allen radiation belt, which we allegedly went through 50 years ago.  Did you know that NASA’s official position is that we had the technology, but we destroyed it, and it’s too difficult to build it back up again?  Seriously.

I’ll be making a much more comprehensive post on this in the near future, but assuming we went already this whole timeline seems unfortunately long.  The notion that there was no point in going back to the Moon after the initial Moon landings is pure silliness.

Asteroids abound

It’s helpful to step away from some of the problems we’re dealing with on Earth and think BIG picture now and then.  NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab released this cool little video a few days ago about all known asteroids in the solar system.  As our technology gets better these become more detectable.  Obviously the goal is to detect a big one far enough in advance to do something about it.  Some large ones are sometimes only detected very late that whiz by Earth rather close.  Yet another reason we need to focus longer term on projects for life on new heavenly bodies.

In other asteroid news, China is planning a mission to find suitable asteroids to hunt and capture for mining.  This is very cool future game changing stuff.  Their goal is eventually to put it into an orbit around the Moon and mine the valuable metals and minerals.

Nasa announced a plan earlier this year to send two spacecraft to asteroids in 2021 and 2023.

The later mission will explore the asteroid 16 Psyche, which is 210km wide and probably a remnant from the core of an ancient planet no longer in existence.

The Chinese programme, however, is much more ambitious.

The plan is to capture an asteroid by landing and anchor a spacecraft on its surface, fire up multiple rocket boosters and project it into the orbit of the moon.

This is the kind of competition we need to propel us forward.  This is good for everyone.