It looks like 2017 is going to see numerous Space probes attempt to land on the lunar surface. While private groups such as Moon Express and Israel’s SpaceIl will try to make it to the moon under the Google Lunar XPrize competition, china has announced that it will launch the Chang’e 5, a lunar sample return mission, in November 2017. The Chang’e 3 was the first object to land on the moon in decades a little more than three years ago. China also intends to land on the far side of the moon a year later in 2018.

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China has a long-term, ambitious space exploration program that involves a space station, missions to Mars and beyond, and an eventual human landing on the moon. China would like to exploit the moon for its natural resources, including helium 3, a substance that could be used to fuel future fusion power plants.

China’s space ambitions come against the backdrop of change at NASA presaged by the new Donald Trump administration. Former President Obama had canceled the Bush-era Constellation program that would have sent humans back to the moon by the end of the current decade.

China's Chang'e-5 Moon sample return mission on course for 2017 ... - gbtimes.com
China's Chang'e-5 Moon sample return mission on course for 2017 ... - gbtimes.com

In its place, the former president established a vaguely defined and underfunded Journey to Mars that is said to envision astronaut boots on the Martian soil sometime in the 2030s.

Trump has not named a new NASA administrator or has articulate a new space exploration policy in detail. But he has stated that he is interested in a new push for the space agency to explore space. Most analysts believe that the Trump policy will mandate a return to the moon in advance of the journey to Mars with commercial partnerships.

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The commercial angle will open up opportunities for companies like Moon Express and its rival Astrobotic, which recently dropped out of the Google Lunar XPrize race to the moon.

Trump has also recently met with SpaceX’s Elon Musk, which has sparked rumors that the new administration may up NASA’s partnership with that company’s Mars ambitions. SpaceX hardware, including the Falcon Heaven and perhaps a lunar version of the Red Dragon, could be part of a lunar effort as well.

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