Tuesday, September 20, 2005

NASA Barks at the Moon - Again

NASA Planning Return to Moon Within 13 Years

Combining an old concept, existing equipment and new ideas, NASA gave shape on Monday to President Bush's promise to send humans back to the Moon by the end of the next decade. Michael D. Griffin, the agency's new administrator, detailed a $104 billion plan that he said would get astronauts to the Moon by 2018, serve as a steppingstone to Mars and beyond, and stay within NASA's existing budget. The plan would use a new spacecraft similar to the Apollo command capsule of the original Moon program, and new rockets made up largely of components from the space shuttle program. "It is very Apollo-like," Dr. Griffin said, "but bigger. Think of it as Apollo on steroids." Dr. Griffin and other space advocates, including influential members of Congress, have said the United States needs a replacement for the aging shuttle fleet as a matter of national security. Russia and China are currently capable of human spaceflight, and other countries have expressed interest in following suit. Dr. Griffin said the nation must maintain an independent capability to send people into space after the shuttle retires in 2010.

Moon-to-Mars Plans Emerge: New Agenda or Apollo Retread?

In NASA's new return-to-the Moon scenario, astronauts will cover much more territory than Apollo moonwalkers. A key goal is to use water ice that may be stashed within permanently shadowed craters at the Moon's poles. Each team of Moon explorers would leave behind essential components for later use, as well as equipment that could constitute a lunar station. That base could well mirror the type of encampment now situated in Antarctica.

I suspect China's increasing presence in space has something to do with this initiative:

China could launch next manned space mission this month: report

China could move ahead the launch of its next manned space mission to as early as this month, a state newspaper reported Wednesday. China is also developing its first unmanned lunar exploration craft for a launch by 2006. China's space program is still shrouded in secrecy with little known about events until several days before they happen. However since the success of the first manned flight, the authorities have shown a little more transparency. Keenly aware of the military, scientific and commercial benefits of space knowledge, China has been aggressively pursuing space exploration for years.

Are the Chinese looking for more mooncakes?

Dark side of the mooncakes

The people of Beijing munched through 15,000 tonnes of mooncakes -- more than 1 kg (2.2 lb) per person -- and bought one tenth of all the round cakes sold nationwide for Sunday's Mid-Autumn Festival, Xinhua news agency said Monday. The traditional, heavy pastries, symbols of the moon and common gifts for family, friends and business associates, have become a huge business in China with elaborate, lavishly packaged sets of just a few cakes commanding sky-high prices. The cakes symbolize the overthrow of the Mongols at the end of the Yuan dynasty in the 14th century when, according to legend, secret notes baked into sweets helped spark an uprising.


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