It looks as if the red dragon is having to take a breather regarding its ascent towards the lunar heavens. With China delaying its lunar orbiter for "unspecified reasons," Japan may be in the perfect position to eclipse its Asian rival.
(Aviation Week) China's new oxygen/hydrogen propulsion system development, needed for even more ambitious Chinese lunar missions, is also falling years behind schedule, U. S. intelligence analysts believe.
China had originally planned to launch its 5,000-lb. Chang'e lunar orbiter in April on an existing Long March booster. Beijing officials who had been touting the spring target for a year suddenly are announcing a September or October date at the earliest for their first Moon mission, as if the early spring target had never been on the books.
In contrast, the 6,600-lb. Japanese Selene lunar orbiter has been delivered to the Tanegashima Space Center for launch in early August on an increasingly important Asia-Pacific space mission.
China's setback could easily help Japan regain its place in the Asian space as the nation has remained in China's shadow for far too long. Although they have yet to launch a human being into space, a successful lunar mission would go a long ways towards convincing Japanese officials of the value of space, let alone a future lunar colony.
Japan has enormous potential technology wise, but if the nation of the rising sun ever desires to see their flag shine on other worlds, they will need to demonstrate an ability to not only send robots to the cosmos, but humans as well.
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