India, China, and Israel will all send spacecraft to the Moon in 2018, The Hill is reporting. If India or Israel get there first, they will be the fourth country to put spacecraft on the Earth’s only natural satellite: the U.S.A., China, and Russia are the only three countries to have put spacecraft up there.
Israel’s mission may be the most ambitious of the three. At least partially privately funded, according to Digital Trends, the Middle Eastern nation plans to have a spacecraft land on the lunar surface February 13, 2019; as of this writing, no launch date has been set.
Israel’s lander will be the smallest spacecraft to land on the Moon. At about five feet tall and weighing just 1,322 pounds, the craft will take videos and photos, as well as magnetic readings, says Morris Khan, president of the nonprofit group that helped raise funds for the mission.
“The launch of the first Israeli spacecraft will fill Israel, in its 70th year, with pride. It is a national accomplishment that will put us on the world’s space map.”
The mission’s backers also hope that the mission will inspire Israeli children to get interested in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) subjects.
— The Times of Israel (@TimesofIsrael) July 10, 2018
India’s Chandrayaan-2 mission, according to India Times, will be the country’s second lunar mission, complete with an orbiter, a lander, and a rover. Specifically, the mission will head for the Moon’s south pole, a region that has yet to be explored. While there, it will look for water – which would be immensely beneficial if (when?) humans are sent up there to colonize the satellite – as well as helium-3, an isotope that could prove useful in making nuclear fusion reactors. The technology is decades away, but India wants to be in the lead for the process, says India’s space agency chairperson Kailasavadivoo Sivan.
“The countries which have the capacity to bring that source from the moon to Earth will dictate the process. I don’t want to be just a part of them, I want to lead them.”
China plans to launch Chang’e 4 in December. Like the India mission, the Chinese mission will explore the Moon’s south pole.
The Hill notes that China’s ambitions on the Moon may extend beyond the scientific.
“Considering China’s aggressive, imperialist actions on Earth, particularly in the South China Sea, those plans for the moon are of some concern for American policymakers.”
As for the United States: as of this writing, several planned missions to the Moon are in the work. Some are government-funded, some are privately-funded, and some are a mix of private and public money. However, as of this writing, there are no firm launch dates for any lunar missions.