South Korea's first lunar orbiter ‘Danuri’ left for space at 8:08 a.m. on Friday. The Danuri, which was on a Falcon 9 rocket launched from Cape Canaveral in Florida by SpaceX, successfully made contact with the command center around 9:40. a.m. After successfully boarding the planned trajectory, the Danuri will make a long journey of 149 days until it reaches the lunar orbit.
The Danuri will approach the moon on Dec. 16, and after that, it will slow down and settle into orbit 100 kilometers above the moon at the end of the same month. On Jan. 1, 2023, when observation equipment such as a highly sensitive camera installed in the Danuri starts to work normally, Korea will become the 7th country with a space exploration program. So far, only six countries, including Russia, the United States, Japan, Europe, China and India, have succeeded in this endeavor. Following the successful launch of the locally developed Nuri space rocket on June 21, Korea has made the first attempt at carrying out space exploration, making it one step closer to becoming a space exploration powerhouse.
The Danuri will orbit the moon 12 times a day next year. Its missions include transmitting the music video of BTS' hit song ‘Dynamite’ to Earth, which is 380,000 kilometers away, using the space internet, precision shooting of the shaded regions around the poles of the moon. Finding a spot to disembark Korea's first lunar lander, which will be launched in 2030 on an upgraded Nuri rocket is part of the mission as well.
Recently, competition between countries around the world to explore the moon is getting fiercer. It is said that there are more than 1 million tons of Helium-3 on the moon, which is a promising fuel for nuclear fusion power generation and a future energy source for mankind. The gravity on the moon is 16.5 percent of the Earth's, making it a perfect outpost to take a voyage to more remote universe. It is for this reason that the U.S. has resumed its space exploration program after 50 years of scrapping the Apollo program and plans to launch a manned pathfinder on the moon in 2025. For the same reason, China has decided to build an unmanned research base on the moon within 10 years from now as well. Korea should also exert further efforts in exploring the moon so as not to lag behind other countries.
A country that cannot play its share in space exploration, which has become a competitive arena for powerful countries with economic and scientific power, has no place to stand. The reason why NASA helped launch the Danuri this time, and that Korea was able to participate as the 10th partner in the Artemis program to help the U.S. launch a manned lunar lander last year, is that Korea has its own satellite development capabilities and is the world's 10th largest economy. Korea should take a notch up efforts to advance into space by establishing the National Aeronautics and Space Administration without further delay and mobilizing national capabilities.