The Moon looms large for The Planetary Society this week. Japan's Kaguya mission will launch on its journey there on Thursday, September 13, carrying more than 400,000 names and messages that the Society helped gather from well-wishers around the world.
The launch of Kaguya will also kick off an International Lunar Decade, a period when several nations are actively planning missions to the Moon, leading to a proposed human-occupied lunar base.
"Many nations have set their sights on the Moon," said Louis Friedman, Executive Director of The Planetary Society. "Japan's Kaguya mission is scheduled to launch this week, followed by China's Chang'E mission in several months. NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter and India's Chandrayaan lunar orbiter are scheduled for next year. Russia, Italy and Germany are also planning lunar missions. We hope that the International Lunar Decade will combine that worldwide interest into a program of international cooperation that will enhance the peaceful exploration of space."
Along with these planned government missions, Friedman noted that interest in private lunar missions is again growing, with an announcement of a new opportunity expected this week. "The Planetary Society encourages all-comers to the International Lunar Decade, with the goal of peaceful exploration of space," he stated.
The Planetary Society worked with The Planetary Society of Japan and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) to promote a Wish Upon the Moon campaign to send names and messages to Earth's Moon on Kaguya, which was formerly named SELENE. Messages included some from well-known individuals. Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin's plan for the future was "Back to the Moon and on to Mars," and Ray Bradbury sent the comment, "Beyond the Moon, Mars beckons."
The Secure World Foundation helped fund The Planetary Society's efforts to establish an International Lunar Decade to advance international cooperation in space. The ILD would further both science cooperation and mission coordination. The U.S. Vision for Space Exploration envisions a lunar base established by 2020. 14 space agencies around the world have recently issued a Global Exploration Strategy for human and robotic exploration of the Moon and Mars. Their purpose is to establish a cohesive framework for space cooperation.
2007 marks the 50th anniversary of Sputnik, a fitting framework for exploration that may renew and re-energize world interest in human exploration of space.