South Korea enters the race for the moon with the Danuri robotic probe

Image: Korea Aerospace Research Institute/Disclosure

This week, a SpaceX rocket will launch the Danuri probe – the first robotic lunar exploration mission developed by South Korea – into space.

The goal of the mission is to image and perform topological measurements of the Moon, identifying potential landing sites for future robotic and manned missions. The project is the result of a cooperation agreement that the South Koreans have with the United States and is part of the Artemis program.

NASA even supported the development of Danuri by providing a advanced reconnaissance orbital camera, which will help in the search for ice deposits in the umbra regions of the Moon. The camera will also produce high resolution images and measure the terrain inside the craters, including the distribution of rocks and boulders.

Originally called Korea Pathfinder Lunar Orbiter (KPLO), the mission was renamed in May “Danuri”, a mixture of two Korean words meaning “Moon” and “enjoy”.

Danuri mission

According to the website Spacein addition to the camera Nasa, the 678kg probe carries five other instruments – including sensors, cameras, magnetometers and spectrometers – developed by Korean universities and research organizations. In addition to water ice, the South Koreans intend to study other lunar resources, such as silicon, aluminum, helium-3 and uranium.

“We want to develop critical technology for space exploration as well as scientific research,” Danuri’s project scientist Eunhyeuk Kim told the magazine. Science.

South Korea has invested $200 million on the robotic probe. It will travel through space atop a Falcon 9 rocket and arrive on the Moon in mid-December. The probe will orbit 100 kilometers above the lunar surface for at least a year.

Initially scheduled for next Tuesday (2), the takeoff of the Danuri has been postponed to August 4, at 8:08 p.m. (Brasilia time). According to the website Korea TimetablesSpaceX justified the delay by saying that it had identified during pre-flight inspection that the rocket needed a additional maintenance work.

Liftoff can be watched directly on SpaceX’s YouTube channel (link here).

moon race

With this South Korean launch, the number of nations intending to send missions to the Moon in the coming months increases to six. These are: the United States, India, Russia, Japan, the United Arab Emirates, in addition to South Korea.

The list is led by NASA’s Artemis 1, a demonstration flight of the SLS rocket and Orion capsule, in late August, which is expected to orbit the Moon and return to Earth.

In August, India plans to launch the Chandrayaan-3 mission, the country’s second attempt to send a rover to the surface of the Moon. In October, it is the turn of Luna-25, the first Russian trip to the Moon since 1976.

There’s also Japan’s Smart Lander for Investigating the Moon (SLIM), which will attempt a precise landing on the Moon, with a launch scheduled for December 2022.

And it ends with the Rashid rover, from the United Arab Emirates, which should reach the lunar surface with a landing module developed by the private company iSpace. If successful, it could be the first commercial mission to land on the Moon, as pointed out Nature.

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