The past weekend saw Asian superpowers mark new milestones in their efforts to reach space. Once an achievement only claimed by Western nations, the stars will now see Chinese and Indian research vessels floating among them.
China’s Chang’e-3 rocket blasted off on Sunday, carrying the Jade Rabbit moon rover on the countries first attempt to land a craft on the moon. This launch is widely seen as a symbol of growing international status. If the mission is successful, China will be the third country to have completed missions to the moon. The last attempts made by the Americans and Russians were back in the early 70s.
The country aims to build a permanent space station by 2020, and eventually launch a manned mission to the moon.
India has also shown their scientific progress by implementing the final step to launching their spacecraft to Mars. The orbiter Mangalyaan, which means “Mars Craft”, fired its main engines for 20 minutes to reach the necessary velocity to escape Earth’s orbit. This comes after reports that the initial attempts at firing the engine had failed.
The spacecraft will now spend the next 10 months traveling to Mars, where it will spend six months examining the red planet for methane; while also gathering information about how the Martian weather works. This makes India only the fourth country to launch a mars mission after the USA, Russia, and Europe.