The Planetary Society has organized a special international lunar session on May 28, 2004 as part of the United Nations/European Space Agency (UN/ESA) Basic Space Sciences Workshop in Beijing, China. Representatives and specialists from the space agencies of the United States, China, Europe, Japan, and India will discuss ongoing and planned lunar missions in the context of planetary exploration.
After three decades of being almost ignored, the Moon will soon become a busy place for robotic spacecraft. Europe's SMART-1 mission, a technology test of low-thrust ion propulsion, is currently on a 16-month journey to the Moon. SMART-1 will measure the chemical composition of the lunar surface, including the polar regions. Japan is developing two missions: Lunar-A, an orbiter that will fire penetrators into the surface, and SELENE, an orbiter with two sub-satellites. India also is planning a lunar orbiter, Chandrayaan-1, and China has described Cheng'e as a lunar program with two missions - an orbiter and a lander.
"Moon and Mars exploration is becoming a global effort with a great technical and programmatic future," said Bruce Murray, a Planetary Society co-founder and Chairman of its Board, "which is why the Planetary Society urges worldwide collaboration on lunar missions." The Society proposes that an international lunar way station be part of the preparations for human outposts on Mars.
Lunar session participants will include James Burke, retired from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the first project manager of a mission to the Moon (the Ranger missions in 1960-62); Bernard Foing, the European Space Agency Project Scientist for SMART-1and Chair of the International Lunar Exploration Working Group; Hitoshi Mizutani, the Japanese Space Agency Project Scientist for the Lunar-A mission; and Narendra Bhandari of India's Chandrayaan-1 project. Scientists from the Chinese Academy of Sciences will also participate in the meeting. Louis Friedman, Executive Director of The Planetary Society, will chair the session.
"Promoting international cooperation with the lunar missions is just one the Society's activities in support of the new Moon-to-Mars space exploration policy," Friedman noted. He cited his testimony to the President's Commission on Implementation of US Space Policy earlier this month.