We're finally getting a new space race — between China and India, which just launched its new Moon probe, Chandrayaan-1, today. China already launched its Chang'e orbiter last year, and "today we are trying to catch them, catch that gap, bridge the gap," the director of India's space agency told Reuters. But that doesn't mean NASA is out of the picture altogether — India's rocket is carrying a couple of devices for the U.S. agency, including one to look for ice deposits in the moon's polar region. And NASA plans to launch its own orbiter next year. Click through for another couple of images of the gorgeous Chandrayaan-1.
Between Chandrayaan-1 and NASA's forthcoming Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, we'll finally get decent maps of the Moon's surface. "We don't really have really good modern maps of the moon with modern instrument," said Georgetown space policy researcher Scott Pace. "The quality of the Martian maps, I would make a general argument, is superior to what we have of the Moon."