One giant step: Moon race hots up

Technology, science and politics are all essential factors in the Moon race.

| Updated on: Aug 11 2023, 09:47 IST
10 times Einstein got it right! From Universal speed limit to blackhole; know them all
1/10 1. Universal Speed LimitEinstein's theory states that all light must obey the speed limit of 300,000 kilometers per second. This was confirmed in 2009 when NASA's Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope detected two photons, carrying vastly different energy, traveling at the same speed. These photons originated from a high-energy region near the collision of two neutron stars about 7 billion years ago. (NASA/Robert Gendler)
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2/10 2. Strong Lensing:Massive objects like galaxies can distort light from distant objects behind them, acting as lenses. This phenomenon, known as strong lensing, was first observed in 1979 when scientists saw a double image of a quasar caused by a galaxy acting as a lens. The warped space due to gravity alters the appearance of the distant object, leading to multiple images (Pexels)
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3/10 3. Weak Lensing: Similar to strong lensing, weak lensing occurs when a massive object bends light from a farther object, but with no special alignment. This results in the projection of only one image of the distant object, making it appear larger and stretched due to the closer object's gravity. (Pixabay)
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4/10 4. Microlensing: Stars can also act as lenses, magnifying light from background stars. When a star with planets orbits in the foreground, the light from the background star experiences a temporary increase in brightness. This technique, called microlensing, is used to find exoplanets. NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope discovered an "iceball" planet using microlensing. (Pixabay)
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5/10 5. Black Hole: Black holes, predicted by Einstein's theory of general relativity, are extremely dense objects with gravity so intense that nothing, not even light, can escape them. In 2019, the Event Horizon Telescope captured the first image of a black hole's event horizon, the point of no return. Other telescopes also observed this black hole to study its properties. (Pixabay)
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6/10 6. Relativistic Jet: The galaxy Messier 87 (M87) contains a supermassive black hole at its center, surrounded by a disk of hot gas and two jets of material shooting in opposite directions. One of these jets points almost directly towards Earth, causing enhanced brightness due to "relativistic beaming." The exact workings of these jets remain mysterious.  (NASA)
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7/10 7. A Gravitational Vortex: The intense gravity of black holes causes infalling material to "wobble" around them, similar to a spoon stirring honey. In 2016, scientists observed this wobbling matter for the first time using XMM-Newton and NASA's Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array. These observations confirm Einstein's ideas about gravity. (Pixabay)
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8/10 8. Gravitational Waves: First hypothesized by Einstein, gravitational waves were detected in 2016 by the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO). These ripples in space-time traveled for 1.3 billion years before being observed, providing groundbreaking evidence for general relativity. (Pixabay)
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9/10 9. The Sun Delaying Radio Signals: Spacecraft communicating with Earth using radio waves offer an opportunity to test Einstein's theory. In 1970, NASA's Mariner VI and VII spacecraft confirmed the delay of radio signals caused by the Sun's gravity, supporting Einstein's predictions.  (Nasa)
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10/10 10. Proof from Orbiting Earth: Gravity Probe B, launched by NASA in 2004, observed Earth's rotation and its effect on space-time. The spacecraft's gyroscopes exhibited tiny changes in their directions due to Earth's gravity, providing further evidence for Einstein's theory.  (Nasa)
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The race to the Moon is heating up with countries such as the USA, Russia, China, and India planning uncrewed and crewed missions. (NASA/USGS)

Russia's plan to launch its lunar lander on Friday is the latest in an international push to return to the Moon that includes the world's top powers but also new players.

Technology, science and politics are all essential factors in the Moon race.

Here is the latest:

- China's great leap -

China is pursuing plans to send a crewed mission to the Moon by 2030 and plans to build a base there.

The world's second-largest economy has invested billions of dollars in its military-run space programme in a push to catch up with the United States and Russia.

China was the third country to put humans in orbit in 2003 and Tiangong is the crown jewel of its space programme, which has also landed rovers on Mars and the Moon.

The unmanned Chang'e-4 rocket landed on the far side of the Moon in 2019, with another robot mission to the near side raising the Chinese flag there in 2020.

That moonshot brought rock and soil samples back to Earth, the first time that has been done in more than four decades.

- NASA's Artemis -

NASA's Artemis 3 mission is set to return humans to the Moon in 2025 including its first woman and first non-white astronaut.

Under the Artemis program, NASA is planning a series of missions of increasing complexity to return to the Moon and build a sustained presence in order to develop and test technologies for an eventual journey to Mars.

The first, Artemis 1, flew an uncrewed spacecraft around the Moon in 2022. Artemis 2, planned for November 2024, will do the same with crew on board.

NASA sees the Moon as a pit stop for missions to Mars and has done a deal with Finnish mobile firm Nokia to set up a 4G network there.

However, NASA said this week that the Artemis 3 mission may not land humans on the Moon, depending on whether certain key elements, including the landing system developed by SpaceX, were ready.

Elon Musk's firm won the contract for a landing system based on a version of its prototype Starship rocket, which remains far from ready.

An orbital test flight of the uncrewed Starship ended in a dramatic explosion in April.

- Russia's Luna -

Russia's launch of Luna-25 on Friday will be its first to the Moon since 1976 and marks the beginning of Moscow's new lunar project.

President Vladimir Putin is looking to strengthen space cooperation withChina after ties with the West broke down following the start of Moscow's invasion of Ukraine in 2022.

- New players -

Recent technological progress has reduced the cost of missions and opened the way for new players in the public and private sector to get involved.

India's latest space mission Chandrayaan-3 entered the Moon's orbit in August ahead of the country's second attempted lunar landing later this month.

But getting to the Moon is not an easy task. Israeli non-profit SpaceIL launched its Beresheet lunar lander in 2019, but it crashed.

And in April this year Japan's ispace was the latest company to try, and fail, at the historic bid to put a private lunar lander on the Moon.

Two other US companies, Astrobotic and Intuitive Machines, are set to try later in the year.

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First Published Date: 11 Aug, 09:13 IST
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