Korea and Major Asian Nations Declare Race to the Moon

Korea's new Lunar Orbiter and Lander
(Photo : Korea Aerospace Research Institute)
Korea's new Lunar Orbiter and Lander

South Korea’s Donga Ilbo reported that China, Japan and India have announced that their respective governments and respective space agencies have are planning to start a new space race which involves exploration of the moon. All three powers proclaimed that they will “conquer” the moon in search of resources. They hope to reach the moon between 2017 and 2018. Donga Ilbo also reported that Korea will also be participating in this new race for the moon.

In order to reach the lunar surface, a nation must acquire 3 technologies; an craft that could reach and orbit the moon, a landing craft, and a robotic probe or rover which will be used to explore the surface. China, India, Japan and Korea have all announced plans for developing new unmanned space vehicles for round 2 of lunar exploration. China had already launched lunar exploration probes in 2007 and 2010. China had already successfully landed its craft in 2013 on the lunar surface.

India and Japan have also launched probes that entered lunar orbit and succeeded in 2007 and 2008. Meanwhile, Korea has announced it will be sending its own craft by 2017 and hopes to land a probe by 2020.

After China first succeeded in landing on the moon, major Asian nations that have the sufficient technology India’s space agency had discovered traces of water and ice on the lunar surface with its lunar orbiter, the Chandrian 1. Only last year, it announced plans to send a spacecraft to Mars, but instead decided to launch a new lunar craft, the Chandrian 2 by 2013.

Japan is a step ahead of all the other countries in terms of technology, however. The Japanese space agency, JAXA, showed no interest in exploring the moon ever since the success of its Gaguya orbiter in 2007. Chang-Jin Lee, a professor of aerospace engineering at Korea’s Kunkook University explained that Japan already acquired all the necessary technologies through its asteroid exploration program. Its probe Hayabusa 1 had succeeded in landing on the asteroid Itokawa and even returned to earth with a dirt sample.

Korea on the other hand, had entered the race to the moon 10 years later compared to the other 3 countries. Korea’s NARO space center has announced plans to test its lunar orbiter after launching it into lunar orbit with the help of an American launch vehicle. Gwang-hyuk Ju, the director of the lunar exploration program announced that they have around 70 percent of the technology necessary to reach the moon. \

They even have specific plans to construct its lunar lander purely from Korean technology and their own unique design. However, the journey to the moon is no easy one, and the space agency even announced that they will seek cooperation with other nations to reach their goal.

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