The CS Monitor takes a peek at the developing Asian space race. China, Japan and India have all developed a significant sapce launch capability. China's lunar probe was preceded by a Japanese one last month, and India is planning a similar mission next year as well.
"The moon shots, all designed to learn more about the lunar atmosphere and surface, have no military purpose, officials in the three new space powers are quick to point out. But in a field where civilian technological advances can easily be put to military use, nations closely scrutinize each of their neighbors' steps forward.
India is nervous about China's intentions, especialy in the wake of Beijing's test of an antisatellite missile last January. China worries that Japan's missile defense cooperation with the US might threaten its interests, and resents Washington's determination to remain the world's dominant space power. Japan is rattled by North Korea's ballistic-missile capability."
Some of the other rationales for these missions is national prestige and the high technology spinoffs and skills that acrue from such research. All three nations are focused on the moon due to its close proximity and the possibility of commercial exploitation of resources such as Helium-3, which is thought to exist in quantity on the moon and could eventually be used to power nuclear fusion technology.
There are also important military considerations for all three powers as they and the traditional space powers are treading the line between defense related space utilization and weaponization, as China demonstrated in its anit-satellite program last year.