Enjoy the moon! South Korea’s first lunar orbiter is launched into space by a SpaceX rocket

Enjoy the moon! South Korea’s first lunar orbiter is launched into space by a SpaceX rocket as Seoul aims for a 2030 landing

  • South Korea today launched its first lunar orbiter on the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket
  • Korea Pathfinder Lunar Orbiter is nicknamed Danuri, which means “enjoy the moon”
  • It will enter the orbit of the moon in December before starting observation for a year
  • If the mission is successful, South Korea will become the world’s seventh lunar explorer

South Korea’s first-ever lunar mission is underway after the country’s first lunar orbiter was launched into orbit on a SpaceX rocket.

The Korea Pathfinder Lunar Orbiter, nicknamed Danuri – meaning ‘enjoy the moon’ – was launched into space atop a Falcon 9 booster.

At a pivotal moment that sets the stage for Seoul’s more ambitious lunar endeavors along the way, the orbiter has taken off The American space station in Cape Canaveral in Florida at 7:08 pm ET on Thursday (12:08 am BST on Friday).

South Korea ultimately aims to land a probe on the moon by 2030 and joins a host of other countries planning new missions to the moon’s surface, including the United States, Russia and China.

The $ 180 million (£ 148 million) Korea Pathfinder Lunar Orbiter (KPLO) will enter lunar orbit in December before embarking on a year-long observation mission.

Takeoff: South Korea embarked on its first ever lunar mission after the country’s first lunar orbiter was launched into orbit on a SpaceX rocket

The Korea Pathfinder Lunar Orbiter, nicknamed Danuri - meaning 'enjoy the moon' - was launched into space atop a Falcon 9 booster

The Korea Pathfinder Lunar Orbiter, nicknamed Danuri – meaning ‘enjoy the moon’ – was launched into space atop a Falcon 9 booster

HOW SOUTH KOREA ENTERS THE NEW SPACE RACE

Until just over two months ago, South Korea relied on other countries to transport its satellites, with the majority of rocket launches being carried out by the United States, Russia, China, Japan, France and India.

That changed with the successful launch of its three-stage Nuri rocket on 21 June.

This delivered a working 357-pound satellite in orbit 435 miles above the Earth.

The rocket also fired a 1.3-ton dummy satellite and four small cube satellites developed by universities for space research.

He brought the country closer to his dream of becoming a new player in the space industry, having been late in the race due to a Cold War-era agreement with the United States that prohibited him from developing a space program.

This will include finding a landing site, testing space internet technology, and smelling rare elements on the moon, South Korea’s science ministry said.

If it succeeds, the nation would become the world’s seventh lunar explorer and fourth in Asia, behind China, Japan and India.

KPLO’s lunar arrival will occur about a month after NASA’s tiny CAPSTONE probe, which launched in late June and is also embarking on a winding path to Earth’s only natural satellite.

South Korea’s 678 kg orbiter separated from the SpaceX rocket about 40 minutes after launch and subsequently began communicating with a ground station.

“Analysis of the information received confirmed … Danuri was operating normally,” Deputy Science Minister Oh Tae-seog said in a briefing, announcing that the orbiter had established a trajectory to the moon.

The spacecraft has six scientific instruments, five of which are home-grown and one, called the ShadowCam, supplied by NASA.

This will look for water ice in permanently shadowed lunar craters.

Measurements from a magnetometer on the orbiter could also help scientists better understand the moon’s residual magnetic field.

The launch was originally scheduled for Wednesday, but was delayed due to a maintenance issue with the SpaceX rocket.

In June, South Korea successfully launched its first satellites into orbit in what was also considered a historic milestone in its space program.

Both developments bring the country closer to its dream of becoming a new player in the space industry, having arrived late in the race due to a Cold War-era agreement with the United States that prohibited it from developing a space program.

The $ 180 million Korea Pathfinder Lunar Orbiter (pictured) will enter lunar orbit in December before embarking on a year-long observation mission

The $ 180 million Korea Pathfinder Lunar Orbiter (pictured) will enter lunar orbit in December before embarking on a year-long observation mission

The three-stage Nuri rocket, built by the government’s Korea Aerospace Research Institute together with hundreds of local companies, took off from the Naro Space Center in Goheung, about 500 km south of Seoul.

Space launches have long been a sensitive issue on the Korean peninsula, where North Korea faces international sanctions for its nuclear ballistic missile program.

In March, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un asked to expand his space rocket launch site to advance his space ambitions, after South Korea and the United States accused him of testing a new missile. intercontinental ballistics under the pretext of launching a spacecraft.

South Korea claims that its space program is for peaceful and scientific purposes and any military use of the technology, such as in spy satellites, is for its defense.

In June, South Korea successfully launched its first satellites into orbit in what was also considered a historic milestone in its space program (pictured)

In June, South Korea successfully launched its first satellites into orbit in what was also considered a historic milestone in its space program (pictured)

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