South Korea Shoots for the Moon

Image (Credit): The launch of the South Korean Danuri spacecraft on August 4, 2022 from Florida. (AP)

Last week, South Korea launched a spacecraft towards the Moon via a SpaceX rocket. As with other nations and programs (the U.S., Russia, the European Space Agency, Japan, China, Luxembourg, Israel, and India), South Korea hopes to learn more about the Moon and share it with the scientific community. NASA also has a role in this latest mission, having added instruments to the spacecraft.

The Korea Pathfinder Lunar Orbiter, dubbed the Danuri, will be South Korea’s first foray towards the Moon. It will not reach the Moon until December, and then remain in orbit for about a year. In terms of the overall mission of the spacecraft, NASA noted:

…the objectives are to develop indigenous lunar exploration technologies, demonstrate a ‘space internet,’ and conduct scientific investigations of the lunar environment, topography, and resources, as well as identify potential landing sites for future missions.

In addition to other equipment, NASA added a high-sensitivity camera called ShadowCam, which will look for evidence of ice in the lunar craters.

South Korea is also part of the Artemis Accords, which the U.S. and other nations signed to establish a lunar presence to be followed by travel to Mars. At the time of the signing, South Korea’s Minister of Science and ICT stated:

For successful space exploration, it is critical to implement space development activities transparently and responsibly by collaborating with the international community…With the signing of the Artemis Accords, Korea would be able to strengthen cooperation with nations participating in the Accords in exploring the outer space.

It is encouraging to see more cooperation in the space realm, even if things are rocky with Russia, one the the bigger players to date.