Last month, Mexico embarked on innovating its technological sector by announcing its intention to embark on a moon mission by 2016. Stop laughing and read on. Teaming up with Astrobotic, Mexico is developing a reusable payload to conduct experiments on the lunar surface. There is an ongoing competition for Mexican scientist to submit proposals for the experiments the payload would include.
On June 10, 2015, Mexico and Astrobotic, a Carnegie Mellon University-affiliated company based in Pittsburgh signed an agreement for them to carry Mexico’s payload to the Moon on the Griffin Lander. If the lunar landing is successful, Mexico would be the first Latin American country to reach the moon.
Astrobotics is developing the Griffin Lander as part of Google’s Lunar X Prize, a competition to develop private lunar landers for lunar exploration by private companies. Mexico has purchased a slot for “a shoe box sized” module on the Griffin mission currently scheduled for late 2016. The Griffin Lander is expected to be launched by a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.
The Agencia Espacial Mexicana (AEM), Mexico’s version of NASA is currently holding a competition to determine what the Mexican lunar module will contain when it reaches the moon. The selection will be made later this year.
Although some of you are likely to be making fun of this endeavor there are some of us that see the strategy of buying space on a commercial moon lander valuable. Instead of spending untold amounts to develop its own lunar lander, Mexico is gaining space experience from strategically collaborating with others. Only five countries have reached the moon with lunar probes. They are China, India, Japan Russia and the United States. In addition, in 2004, the European Space Agency sent the Smart-1 probe to the moon.
Space is dangerous and expensive. The United States is currently collaborating with Russia to send US astronauts to the International Space Station. Besides the Mexican satellite programs, Mexico has also been represented via a Mexican born astronaut, Rodolfo Neri Vela and US astronaut Jose M. Hernandez, the child of Mexican immigrants to the US.
The proposed lunar probe is the natural progression Mexico needs to achieve the status of a country with an active space program.