Physics: Principles and Problems


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To the Moon
Posted April 2002

The Space Race seems to have come to a halt. With the dissolution of the Soviet Union more than a decade ago, the U.S. and Russia are no longer struggling against each other to send people - or even probes - into the uncharted regions of space.

There have been some high-profile space missions, such as the Mars probes in the late 1990s, but the motivation for such missions has been internally driven by citizens of the countries rather than by national pride.

In fact, missions to the moon have all but stopped. The U.S., who routinely visited Earth's closest neighbor in the late 1960s and early 1970s, hasn't set foot on the moon for three decades. However, now there appears to be a new nation focusing its attention on the moon - India. Currently, only three nations on the planet (the U.S., Russia, and Japan) have successfully sent a probe to the moon. The U.S. is the only nation that has sent astronauts to walk on the moon.

India has begun stepping into the technology spotlight in recent years. The 1998 revelation that it had nuclear weapon technology (aimed at its nuclear-capable neighbor Pakistan) brought India international attention and respect.

India made another leap into technology when the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) announced that it will send a probe to the moon in 2007. India's space program began in 1972 and, until now, it has focused on close orbits around Earth with weather and telecommunication satellites. The ISRO plans to use a modified version of their current satellite launching system to send the probe to the moon. This mission will mark their first trip into deep space.

Critics of the mission claim that sending a probe to the moon accomplishes nothing new on a scientific level and such a mission would only serve to provide bragging rights to India's government. With one of the highest population densities in the world, India has large pockets of poverty that critics say would benefit more from the $82.5 million the mission will cost.

The nuclear know-how of the Indian government has also led some critics to be suspect of the deep space exploration technology. While the ISRO insists that its missions would be strictly for civilian and scientific interests, critics suggest that the country will use the research to develop their own intercontinental ballistic missile, which will make India capable of launching nuclear weapons at any country in the world.

Use the Internet to research lunar missions. Write a science fiction story in your Science Journal about a trip to the moon.


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Physics: Principles and Problems