Space – This Time We’re Here To Stay

When people think of the space race, Australia and New Zealand would be the last nations to come to mind.

And yet, these two minnows are among the frontrunners of the new space race, which is every bit as exciting and electric as the 1960s space race to put a man on the Moon.

In addition to Australia’s East Arnhem spaceport, the Kiwis have built a rocket port called Mahia Launch Complex on the east coast of New Zealand's North Island.

The New Zealand complex is owned and operated by private spaceflight company Rocket Lab and supports launches of the company's Electron rocket for CubeSat nanosatellites.

Soyuz Rocket pre-flight.
Photo Credit: NASA

Meanwhile, heavyweight Elon Musk can’t even be bothered building a factory, his back-to-the-future 1950s-style rockets are put together under the stars on the Texas prairie, and built so quickly there is a danger of a longhorn being left inside during the construction process.

Fresh meat, and a Mars colony – it doesn’t get much better.

So who is headed to the Moon, Mars, and beyond?

OK, first off India’s plans to colonise the Moon suffered a blow after it drone failed to land safely on the lunar surface. The Chairman of India’s Space Agency has since stated the Chandrayaan-2 mission was 98 per cent successful which loosely translates as the margin between success and failure is rather small.

But the conquest of space has always been propelled by competition.

The victory of NASA’s Apollo projects to the Moon was driven by the Cold War between the US and the Soviet Union.

According to a recent article in The Conversation, from Algeria to Vietnam, there are 72 countries with some sort of space program.

So far only three nations have managed to send astronauts into space: Russia, the US and China.

In January China’s successful Chang’e 4 mission made a soft landing on the mysterious far side of the Moon – the first time this has been done.

China’s success has focused the minds of the Americans, with US President Donald Trump bringing the nation’s Moon return mission forward to 2024.

But the Moon will just be the beginning – NASA plans to use its lunar base as a springboard to get to Mars - and beyond.

 

Lead Image: A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.
Photo Credit: NASA

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