These six countries are about to go to the Moon — here’s why

Japan, South Korea, Russia, India, the United Arab Emirates and the United States aim to send missions to the Moon in the next year. But will they all make it?

The Moon will be one of the most popular destinations in the Solar System in the next year. No fewer than seven missions are headed there from India, Japan, Russia, South Korea, the United Arab Emirates and the United States, along with several companies.

NASA’s US$93-billion Artemis programme might be stealing most of the limelight with its maiden launch this year because it’s the first step towards sending astronauts to the Moon. But the United States is just one of many nations and private companies that soon plan to launch missions, heralding what scientists say could be a new golden age of lunar exploration.

Science isn’t the only driving force. The flurry of missions also signals the growing ambition of several nations and commercial players to show off their technological prowess and make their mark, particularly now that getting to the Moon is easier and cheaper than ever before.

South Korea’s Korean Pathfinder Lunar Orbiter (KPLO), for example, “is the first step to secure and verify Korea’s space exploration capability and obtain new scientific measurements of the Moon”, says Chae Kyung Sim, a planetary scientist at the Korea Astronomy and Space Science Institute in Daejeon, South Korea, who is a member of the science team designing one of the mission’s instruments. “We are enjoying joining this new wave of lunar missions.”

Four other nations are also aiming to reach the Moon in 2022. Japan’s SLIM (Smart Lander for Investigating the Moon), which is likely to launch sometime later this year, will attempt a pinpoint landing, with a level of accuracy no other country has ever achieved. That mission or one by the Tokyo-based company ispace, also set to launch this year, will be the country’s first foray to the Moon.

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