American scientists fear history may be repeating itself as Asia emerges as the rising force in space exploration. Many believe it only a matter of time before Asian nations surpass the United States in space technology.
China, which sent a man into space for the first time in 2003, plans to launch its own moon probe before the end of the year, followed by India in the first half of 2008. Japan kick-started the Asian lunar race on September 14 when it successfully launched its first lunar orbiter.
While China and India have raised the possibility of a manned lunar mission within the next decade, the United States has vowed to return to the Moon in 2020 nearly half-a-century after Neil Armstrong made the first steps on the Moon in 1969.
"In America, contrary to our self-image, we are no longer leaders but simply players," said Neil DeGrasse Tyson, the director of the Hayden Planetarium in a recent editorial. "We've moved backward just by standing still."