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China is launching a rover to the moon this year, with more launches and returning samples coming soon. They also plan to have humans on the moon within the next decade.

The Moon offers many benefits for exploration beyond Earth -

  • Abundant resources
  • A stable launch platform with a much lower gravity well, and
  • Easy access to shielding from the hazards of open space (i.e. radiation & impacts)

Identifying the best locations to

  • Harvest resources
  • Set up factories, and
  • Create habitats

would all seem to be basic logistical, political and economic necessities for exploration of the Moon and the Solar system.

Does China have the most aggressive moon exploration plan as of 2013?

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    $\begingroup$ By what measure? $\endgroup$ – gerrit Aug 28 '13 at 23:27
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    $\begingroup$ Apparently by the measure of the first soft landing since 1976. $\endgroup$ – horsh Aug 29 '13 at 0:17
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    $\begingroup$ No. It's moving damn fast but it's starting from a distant position and it's quite a while yet before it catches up with the leaders. The program is very aggressive but less advanced than what others have already achieved. $\endgroup$ – SF. Aug 29 '13 at 9:33
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    $\begingroup$ As both the native Americans and Vikings will attest, first has little to offer over persistence. $\endgroup$ – James Jenkins Aug 29 '13 at 10:24
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    $\begingroup$ @JamesJenkins a race has a predetermined end point, i.e the moon. The vikings weren't really in a race they were just pillaging. Comparing apples and oranges. This is why it's important that we have predetermined metrics to work by, if none are given in the Question its customary to ask. Erik assumed the first past the post method, gerrit chose to ask you for the metric. Therefore if you say persistence is your metric, not being there first, then what is your definition and how would you measure if a country is 'winning' the race? $\endgroup$ – RhysW Aug 29 '13 at 10:34
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Well, American LADEE is scheduled for the next week, but that doesn't count -- it doen't land, right?

The current Roscosmos plans are with Luna-Glob scheduled for the second half of 2016.

Indian Chandrayaan-2 will not be ready until at least 2015.

Japanese SELENE-2 is not to be expected earlier than 2017.

That leaves Chang'e as the current winner candidate for the first soft landing on the Moon in 37 years. :-)

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