OK, maybe the most exciting era of space exploration - when humans stepped on the Moon -is long past. But what's going on right now is pretty darn amazing.
First NASA reported that there's more and more evidence for fresh water - even drinkably clear water - in the Martian past. There's even a hint - just a hint, so far, but tantalizing - that it sometimes still does.
Then, of course, we have the third nation ever to land a probe on the Moon. Not just a lander, but a rover. China's feat, using largely indigenous technology (there's some traceability to Russian tech, but that's receding into history), captured the biggest worldwide space headlines since the Mars rovers. It is, without doubt, a major step toward the goal of sending a human - a feat that would, in popular opinion at least, make China the predominant nation in space exploration. A rover with the wonderful name of Jade Rabbit is making the first tracks (aside from outright collisions) in the lunar surface since Apollo 17 lifted off. Amazing. Congratulations to China's engineers - and frankly, shame on the space leadership of the US - it's not that we're not capable of this, we clearly are, but we've chosen to let the headlines go to a rival power. I don't think we have any idea yet of the implications.
The mission, including the 120-kg rover, was launched on a Chinese Long March 3B on 1 December.
(Photo released by China, so I don't think the AP mark in the lower right is a copyright problem)