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South Korea launches first-ever spacecraft to the moon

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South Korea’s first-ever lunar orbiter was launched Thursday from the US during a year-long mission to observe the moon, live video showed, carrying a payload including a new fault-tolerant network for transmitting data from space.

Danuri — a portmanteau of the Korean words for “moon” and “enjoy” — was carried on a Falcon 9 rocket launched from Cape Canaveral in Florida by Elon Musk’s space company SpaceX. The goal is to reach the moon in mid-December.

“This is a very important milestone in the history of Korean space exploration,” Lee Sang-ryool, president of the Korea Aerospace Research Institute, said in a video shown prior to launch.

“Danuri is just the beginning, and if we are more determined and committed to technology development for space travel, we will be able to reach Mars, asteroids, and so on in the near future.”

During the one-year mission, Danuri will use six different instruments, including a highly sensitive NASA camera, to conduct research, including examining the lunar surface to identify potential landing sites for future missions.

One of the instruments will evaluate disruption-tolerant, network-based space communications, which is a world first, according to the South Korean Ministry of Science.

Danuri will also try to develop a wireless Internet environment to connect satellites or exploration spacecraft, she added.

The lunar orbiter will stream K-pop sensation BTS’ song “Dynamite” to test this wireless network.

South Korean scientists say Danuri, which took seven years to build, will pave the way for the country’s more ambitious goal of setting foot on the moon by 2030.

“If this mission succeeds, South Korea will become the seventh country in the world to launch an unmanned probe to the moon,” a Korea Aerospace Research Institute official told AFP.

“It is a huge moment for South Korea’s space development program and we hope to continue to contribute to the global understanding of the moon with what Danuri will discover.”

In June, the country launched its first domestically developed space rocket, the second attempt after a failed launch in October last year.

The three-stage Nuri rocket has been in development for ten years and cost 2 trillion won ($1.5 billion).

Asia, China, Japan and India all have advanced space programs, and North Korea, the South’s nuclear-armed neighbor, was the most recent entrant to the club of countries with satellite launch capability.


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