South Korean spacecraft launched to the moon, the country’s first

South Korea joined the lunar rush on Thursday with the launch of a lunar orbiter that will scout future landing sites.

The SpaceX-launched satellite is taking a long detour to save fuel and will arrive in December.

If successful, it will join spacecraft from the US and India already operating around the moon and a Chinese rover exploring the far side of the moon.

New Moon missions are launching in India, Russia and Japan later this year or next, as are a number of private companies in the US and elsewhere. Next up is NASA with the debut of its mega lunar rocket in late August.

South Korea’s $180 million mission — the country’s first step in lunar exploration — involves a boxy, solar-powered satellite designed to glide just 100 kilometers above the lunar surface. Scientists expect to collect geological and other data from this low polar orbit for at least a year.

space launch
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying the Korea Pathfinder Lunar Orbiter, or KPLO, lifts off from Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Cape Canaveral, Florida.

It is South Korea’s second shot into space in six weeks.

In June, South Korea successfully launched a package of satellites into orbit for the first time using its own rocket. The first attempt last fall failed when the test satellite failed 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 first launch in its Artemis program later this month. The goal is to send an empty crew capsule around the moon and back to test the systems before a crew climbs aboard in two years.

space launch.
South Korea wants to land its first spacecraft on the moon by 2030.

Danuri—Korean for “enjoying the moon”—carries six scientific instruments, including a camera for NASA. It was designed to look into the permanently shadowed, ice-filled craters at the lunar poles. NASA prefers the lunar south pole for future astronaut outposts because of evidence of frozen water.

South Korea plans to land its own spacecraft on the moon by around 2030 – a robotic probe.

“Danuri is just the beginning,” Sang-Ryool Lee, president of the Korea Aerospace Research Institute, said on the SpaceX launch webcast.

SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket carrying Danuri lifted off from Cape Canaveral just before sunset. The first stage booster, completing its sixth flight, landed on a sea platform a few minutes later for further recycling.

It was the third space shot of the day from the US

The United Launch Alliance launched an Atlas V rocket carrying an infrared missile detection satellite for the US Space Force at sunrise in Florida. Then Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin rocket company sent six passengers on a fast ride into West Texas space.

Worldwide, Rocket Lab launched a small classified satellite from New Zealand for the US National Reconnaissance Office. South Korean spacecraft launched to the moon, the country’s first


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