China's booming sharing economy is blasting off into space with a telescope that satellite users can rent by the hour to look at distant stars and planets. The satellite will allow space lovers to log onto a web portal to use professional astronomy equipment for 2,000 yuan ($295) to 3,000 yuan per hour. The project is the brainchild of Changsha-based company Tianyi Space Research Institute. The time-share satellite is expected to go online next year, Tianyi CEO Yang Feng told Caixin. Tianyi is one of a handful of commercial space companies in China that's breaking new ground in an industry that has been dominated by state agencies for decades. Although there are only around a dozen commercial space enterprises in the country, the nascent field has already attracted significant investor attention. On May 18, rocket design start-up One Space Technology announced that, months after completing its A-round of financing last year.
The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA — the country’s equivalent of NASA) announced earlier this week that it was developing plans to put a man on the moon by the year 2030. While the proposal is yet to be approved by the nation’s government, if successful it will be the first time a Japanese astronaut is sent on a mission beyond the International Space Station.
Of course, this doesn’t mean Japan is planning to build and launch its own rocket all on its own. Instead JAXA says it wants to contribute to a NASA-led, multinational mission to build a new space station within the moon’s orbit. With the mission scheduled to begin in 2025, Japan hopes that contributing its own cutting-edge technology will help it secure its own spot on the station.
JAXA will present a more formal blueprint of its plans to the government sometime next year, but the idea is that once Japan has a place on the new space station, it will lead to eventually putting one of its astronauts on the moon’s surface.
This announcement is seen by some as Japan’s entry into the “Asian space race,” with several nearby countries also developing ambitious space missions. China, for example, revealed last year its plans to land a rover on Mars by the year 2020, followed by its own manned mission to the moon. In 2014, India launched its own Mars probe, and in 2018 it plans to launch its second unmanned lunar mission.