China is continuing to expand its interest in space exploration, with plans to launch a lunar orbiter called Chang’e One later this year. The orbiter will carry an imaging instrument that will begin capturing data that will allow China to map “every inch” of the lunar surface. The resulting maps and elevation models will be used in the second and third phases of China’s lunar program, which have the goal of landing a probe on the moon and bringing back samples. Having grown up in the US during NASA’s heyday with the Apollo and shuttle programs, and Landsat and other Earth observation missions, it’s interesting to see the balance of power shifting, as other countries and regions are building their own independent space programs. NASA’s budget issues and other problems are hindering new missions, and the US primacy in the area of space exploration and earth observation is rapidly diminishing, which is a loss that is not really getting the attention it needs outside of academic and professional circles.