South Korea embarked on its first mission to the Moon this week with the launch of its Korea Pathfinder Lunar Orbiter (KPLO) mission from Florida. Using a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, the uncrewed spacecraft was launched on a course to orbit the moon on a year-long mission that sees the country become one of a small group of nations to launch lunar missions.
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The KPLO spacecraft launched from Launch Complex 40 at Space Force Station Cape Canaveral in Florida, with liftoff at 7:08 p.m. ET on Thursday, August 4, shown in video footage shared by SpaceX. The spacecraft will now travel for four and a half months, using a fuel-efficient path called a ballistic trajectory that will put it into orbit around the moon. It will enter a lunar polar orbit 62 miles (100 kilometers) away and begin an 11-month mission to collect geological and other data.
The orbiting spacecraft was named Danuri, which combines two Korean works meaning moon (da) and enjoy (nuri). A nod to one of Korea’s most popular cultural exports, the wireless space communication system the orbiter will test during his mission will use K-pop group BTS’ song Dynamite in a test. Called Disruption Tolerant Network Experiment Payload (DTNPL), the idea is to work on a communication network capable of handling disturbances.
Additional orbiter hardware includes a NASA instrument called ShadowCam who will investigate the craters of the moon that are perpetually in shadow, looking for resources such as water that may be trapped there. Other instruments will study gamma-ray bursts, the magnetic field between the Earth and the Moon, and a high-resolution camera to take images of the Moon’s surface.
“If this mission is successful, South Korea will become the seventh country in the world to have launched an unmanned probe to the moon,” an official from the Korea Aerospace Research Institute told AFP. AlJazeera. “This is a huge moment for South Korea’s space development program, and we hope to continue contributing to the global understanding of the Moon with what Danuri is about to discover.”