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 a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket
  • Korea Pathfinder Lunar Orbiter is nicknamed Danuri – which means “enjoy the moon”
  • It will enter the moon’s orbit in December before beginning the year-long observation
  • If the mission is successful, South Korea will become the world’s seventh lunar explorer

South KoreaThe first-ever lunar mission in history is underway after the country’s first lunar orbiter was blasted 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.

In a landmark moment that sets the stage for Seoul’s more ambitious lunar efforts down the road, the orbiter lifted off from US Space Force Station Cape Canaveral in Florida at 7:08 p.m. ET Thursday (12:08 a.m. BST Friday).

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

The $180m (£148m) Korea Pathfinder Lunar Orbiter (KPLO) will enter orbit of the moon in December before beginning a year-long observation mission.

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

The Korea Pathfinder Lunar Orbiter, nicknamed Danuri – which means “enjoy the moon” – was launched into space atop a Falcon 9 booster

The Korea Pathfinder Lunar Orbiter, nicknamed Danuri – which means “enjoy the moon” – was launched into space atop a Falcon 9 booster

HOW SOUTH KOREA GOT INTO THE NEW SPACE RACE

Until just over two months ago, South Korea relied on other countries to carry its satellites, with most 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 June 21.

It delivered a 357lb working satellite orbiting 435 miles above Earth.

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

It has brought the country one step closer to its dream of becoming a new player in the space industry, after being delayed in the race due to a Cold War-era agreement with the United States that prohibited it from develop a space program.

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

If successful, the nation would become the seventh lunar explorer in the world and the fourth in Asia, behind China, Japan and India.

KPLO’s lunar arrival will come about a month after NASA’s tiny CAPSTONE probe, which was launched in late June and also takes a circuitous route to Earth’s only natural satellite.

The 1,495 lb (678 kg) South Korean orbiter separated from the SpaceX rocket about 40 minutes after launch and then began communicating with a ground station.

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

The spacecraft has six scientific instruments, including five from us and one, called ShadowCam, provided by NASA.

This will drive out 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 with success launched its first satellites into orbit in what was also considered a historic milestone in its space program.

These two developments bring the country one step closer to its dream of becoming a new player in the space industry, after it was delayed in entering the race due to a Cold War-era agreement with the United States that prohibited it. to develop a space program.

The $180m (£148m) Korea Pathfinder Lunar Orbiter (pictured) will enter orbit of the moon in December before starting a year-long observation mission

The $180m (£148m) Korea Pathfinder Lunar Orbiter (pictured) will enter orbit of the moon in December before starting a year-long observation mission

The three-stage Nuri rocket, built by the government’s Korea Aerospace Research Institute with hundreds of local companies, lifted off from Naro Space Center in Goheung, about 310 miles (500 km) south of Seoul.

Space launches have long been a hot topic on the Korean Peninsula, where North Korea faces international sanctions over its nuclear-armed ballistic missile program.

In March, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un called for an expansion of his space rocket launch site to advance his space ambitions, after South Korea and the United States accused him of testing a new ballistic missile. intercontinental under the pretext of launching a space vehicle.

South Korea says its space program is for peaceful, 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 seen as a historic milestone in its space program (pictured)

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

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