South Korea launched on Thursday first lunar orbiter developed at home, becoming the seventh country to join the already competitive race to send spacecraft to the Moon.
The release was initially scheduled for July 27. However, it was delayed due to a maintenance issue with the SpaceX rocket.
South Korea to become the world’s seventh lunar explorer
If the mission is successful, South Korea will become the world’s seventh lunar explorer behind the United States, Russia, China, Japan, Israel and India. The ‘Danuri’ orbiter, Korean for “enjoy the moon”, carries six scientific instruments, including a camera for NASA.
It is designed to observe the permanently shadowed, ice-filled craters at the lunar poles. NASA prefers the lunar south pole for future astronaut posts due to evidence of frozen water.
The $180 million mission, the country’s first step in lunar exploration, features a square, solar-powered satellite designed to fly just 62 miles (100 kilometers) above the lunar surface. Scientists hope to collect geological and other data for at least a year from this low polar orbit.
It is South Korea’s second chance in space in six weeks. In June, South Korea successfully launched a package of satellites into Earth orbit for the first time using its own rocket. The first attempt failed last fall, and the test satellite was unable to reach orbit.
And in May, South Korea joined a NASA-led coalition to explore the Moon with astronauts for years and decades to come. NASA is targeting the end of this month for the first launch in its Artemis program.
It may interest you: South Korea is ready to launch its first lunar mission
What is the goal of South Korea’s first lunar mission?
The goal of South Korea’s first lunar mission is to send an empty crew capsule around the moon and back to test systems before a crew comes aboard in two years. South Korea plans to land its own spacecraft on the moon, a robotic probe, by 2030 or so.
“Danuri is just the beginning,” Sang-Ryool Lee, president of the Korea Aerospace Research Institute, said in SpaceX’s launch webcast.
As we report in AmericanPost.News, the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying Danuri lifted off from Cape Canaveral around sunset. The first stage booster, which was making its sixth flight, landed on an ocean platform several minutes later for later recycling.
Korea Pathfinder Lunar Orbiter (KPLO), also known as Danuri, “will be the first step in securing and verifying the ability [de Corea del Sur] of space exploration,” said officials at the Korea Aerospace Research Institute (KARI), which is managing the mission. he said in a statement.
It was the third space launch of the day for the US United Launch Alliance that began at dawn in Florida, launching an Atlas V rocket with an infrared missile detection satellite for the US Space Force. Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin rocket ship sent six passengers on a quick trip into space from West Texas.
Around the world, the company Rocket Lab launched a small classified satellite from New Zealand for the US National Reconnaissance Office.
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