Friday, October 05, 2007

Japan and Russia celebrate milestones in space

Selene orbits the moon and [left] Sputnik orbits the Earth [artist impression]

Japan has successfully put a satellite into orbit about the moon. The H-2A rocket launched the orbiter on the 14th September from the remote island of Tanegashima [BBC]. The mission is the first successful lunar mission from an Asian country. This claim may however be short lived. Next year China plans its own such mission and India is planning a possible manned mission in 2015 [BBC / CNN].

This week also marked another milestone in space exploration, that of the 50th anniversary of the launching of man’s first artificial satellite. Sputnik entered Earth orbit on the 9th October 1957 and at the time created mixed reactions across the globe, coming at the height of the Cold War. The American public, in particular, were extremely concerned by the launch of the Russian satellite. In some respects their fears were well founded. The technology was itself drawn by Russian efforts to build an intercontinental ballistic missile [CNN / BBC]. The event was a massive propaganda coup for the Russians and was marked this week by the unveiling of a monument to commemorate the launch. President Putin described the mission as “a truly historic event which started the space age”.

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