The United States, the pioneer in lunar exploration, is looking to establish a sustained presence on the Moon, envisioning it as a strategic pitstop for future missions to Mars. While the U.S. faces setbacks in its lunar endeavors, other nations and private companies are actively participating in the modern lunar exploration race.
Japan, with its upcoming lunar landing attempt by an unmanned “sniper” probe, joins a growing list of countries and private entities aiming for lunar exploration. Lunar exploration, a feat achieved by only four nations to date, holds the promise of renewed human presence on the Moon after almost five decades.
Under the Artemis program, the U.S. had ambitious plans for crewed lunar missions this year, but these have been postponed to 2025 for additional safety checks. The program aims not only to return humans to the Moon but also to make history with the first woman and person of color stepping onto lunar soil, now slated for 2026.
India, making significant strides in space exploration, celebrated its achievement with the successful landing of Chandrayaan-3 near the Moon’s south pole. The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) plans a dozen missions in 2024, including its first crewed space flight, showcasing the country’s dedication to space exploration.
Russia, aiming to revive its independent lunar exploration, faced a setback with the Luna-25 mission’s crash on the lunar surface. Financial challenges and corruption scandals have plagued Russia’s space program, prompting President Vladimir Putin to seek collaboration with China for space endeavors.
China, the world’s second-largest economy, continues its ambitious “space dream” under President Xi Jinping. With a thriving space program, China plans a crewed lunar mission by 2030 and the establishment of a lunar base. Recent achievements, including the Chang’e-4 mission on the far side of the Moon and the successful return of lunar samples, solidify China’s position in the global lunar exploration race.
Japan, despite facing setbacks and failures in its lunar exploration attempts, is gearing up for another mission with the Smart Lander for Investigating Moon (SLIM), aptly nicknamed the “Moon Sniper” for its precision landing capabilities. As nations like South Korea and the United Arab Emirates intensify their lunar exploration efforts, the pressure is on for successful lunar touchdowns.
In this era of renewed lunar exploration, countries and private entities worldwide are racing to leave their mark on the Moon, with eyes set on the broader goal of establishing a lunar gateway for future missions to Mars.