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NASA's belated reaction to China's Chang'e 3 takes a defensive tone

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According to a December 31, 2013 post on Space Policy Online, NASA has made a somewhat belated reaction to the successful moon landing by the Chinese Chang’e 3 probe and the Jade Rabbit rover.

“After sending 12 humans to the moon's surface during the Apollo Program, NASA continues to explore the moon with three current missions, all in an effort to learn more about our nearest neighbor and enable exploration to an asteroid and Mars. We welcome all countries' peaceful exploration of space, and look forward to China’s public release of the scientific results from the Chang'e 3 mission to the moon. NASA satellites will examine the lander's arrival from various perspectives, and scientists around the world view it as a new scientific opportunity that could potentially enhance studies and observations of the lunar atmosphere that could contribute to our journeys to those farther destinations.”

The three missions referenced in the statement are the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, the Ladee, and the Artemis. It should be noted that all three of these missions were approved under the previous Bush administration. The current Obama administration has explicitly foresworn all interest in exploring the moon after the cancellation of the Bush era Constellation program. That makes the somewhat defensive tone of the statement, referencing the Apollo moon landings, which took place over 40 years ago, somewhat curious. There is a renewed interest from both the scientific community and from some political leaders in restarting lunar exploration in reaction to the Chang’e 3 landing, something the administration is bound to resist.

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