MINERALS OF CAPE, Fla. –
South Korea joined the lunar stampede on Thursday with the launch of a lunar orbiter that will detect future landing sites.
The satellite launched by SpaceX is making a long, detour to save fuel and should arrive in December.
If successful, it will join American and Indian spacecraft already orbiting the moon and a Chinese rover exploring the far side of the moon.
India, Russia and Japan have missions to the new Moon later this year or next, as do a host of private companies in the US and elsewhere. And NASA will continue with the launch of the supermassive rocket to the moon at the end of August.
South Korea’s $180 million mission – the country’s first step in lunar exploration – features a boxy, solar-powered satellite designed to glide just 100 kilometers above the lunar surface. . Scientists are expected to collect geological and other data for at least a year from this low-lying geologic orbit.
This is the second time South Korea has shot into space in six weeks.
In June, South Korea successfully launched a satellite package into orbit around the Earth for the first time with its own rocket. The first attempt last fall failed, with the test satellite failing to reach orbit.
And in May, South Korea joined a NASA-led coalition to explore the moon with astronauts in the years and decades to come. NASA is aiming for later this month for the first launch of its Artemis program. The goal is to send an empty crew capsule around the moon and come back to test the systems before the crew gets on board after two years.
Danuri – Korean for “enjoying the moon” – was carrying six scientific instruments, including a camera for NASA. It was designed to peer into the permanently obscured, ice-filled craters at the Moon’s poles. NASA supports the Moon’s south pole as an outpost for future astronauts because of evidence of frozen water.
South Korea plans to land its own spacecraft on the moon – a robotic probe – in 2030 or so.
SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket carrying Danuri took off from Cape Canaveral near sunset. It’s the third space photo of the day from the US
United Launch Alliance kicks things off at sunrise in Florida, launching an Atlas V rocket with an infrared missile detection satellite for the US Space Force. Then, Jeff Bezos’ rocket company Blue Origin sent six fast passengers into space from West Texas.
Around the world, the company Rocket Lab launched a small classified satellite from New Zealand for the US Office of National Reconnaissance.
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