The New Shape of Space
It’s an exciting time for space programs around the world, as players take part beyond the U.S., Russia, and the European Space Agency (ESA). India, China and Iran are all in on the action, reaching for the moon, Mars, and beyond. Very different from the days when the US/USSR “space race” was running at full speed.
As a school boy, I was riveted to the television as Neil Armstrong stepped on the moon. I was fortunate enough to see the Space Shuttle both take-off and land. But today, it’s a bigger playing field. In fact, there is a universe of opportunities as the field has diversified and more countries have climbed aboard to claim a piece of the sky. As in the old days, it’s a matter of national pride.
Mars craft from India
Although it is our closest planetary neighbor, Mars has proven difficult to reach. There have been 43 missions to Mars and less than half have reached the planet and carried out their mission. At first thought you might not think of India as a big player in the space industry. But they have invested $74 million into their successful Mars Orbiter Mission, with the Mangalyaan probe forming a fundamental part of the project. They are now one of the four space agencies to reach Mars after the Russian space program, NASA and the ESA – good company indeed. Their plans include manned missions to the moon in less than a decade.
NASA is back on the radar
While NASA’s manned space program is regrouping, they have several exciting missions in progress, including New Horizons which is scheduled to reach Pluto early next year and the well-known very successful Mars rovers. Furthermore, just today I was able to watch the successful first test flight of Orion which is designed to take people to the moon, an asteroid, and eventually to Mars.
Accelerated activities in China
China has ramped up its activity in space. More recently their “little fly” spacecraft looped around the moon and returned to earth just over a month ago. They have ambitious plans to build a space station and land astronauts on the moon as well. They are in a space race of their own with India.
Iranian Space Agency
Iran became orbital launch capable in 2009. Although their specific plans are unclear, they have revealed that they plan manned space missions by the end of the decade.
As a school boy watching moon walks, I dreamed of being part of the space program. Little did I know that one day I would work for a company with notable involvement. Both Orion and the Indian Mangalyaan probe are designed with a tool chain that includes Zuken technology. It’s great to feel part of a community that is really pushing the boundaries of innovation.