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South Korea's first lunar mission begins

South Korea’s first lunar mission begins

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Seoul (AFP) – South Korea’s first lunar probe, Danuri, took off Thursday from Cape Canaveral, Florida (US), on a one-year mission, according to images broadcast live on the Internet.

The Danuri orbiter (shrinking “Dal,” meaning moon, and “Nuri” meaning profit), carried by a SpaceX constellation Falcon 9 rocket, should arrive near the moon in mid-December.

“This is a very important milestone in the history of Korean space exploration,” Lee Sang-ryol, head of the Korea Aerospace Research Institute (KARI), said in a pre-launch video.

“Danuri is just the beginning. If we are more determined and committed to developing space travel technologies, we will be able to reach Mars, asteroids, etc. in the near future,” he said.

During the mission, Danuri will use six different instruments, including an ultra-sensitive camera provided by NASA that will be used specifically to study the lunar surface in order to identify landing sites for future missions.

Danuri must also test, for the first time in the world according to the South Korean government, a new networked satellite communications system that is resistant to disturbances.

The probe will also attempt to create a wireless Internet environment aimed at connecting satellites or exploration vehicles through space. This radio communication will be tested in space by streaming the song “Dynamite” by K-pop group BTS.

According to South Korean scientists, Danuri – which took seven years to build and cost about 2 trillion won (1.5 billion euros) – will pave the way for more ambitious goals. South Korea plans to land a probe on the moon by 2030.

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“If this mission succeeds, South Korea will become the seventh country in the world to launch an unmanned probe to the moon,” an official at the Cary Institute told AFP.

“This is a pivotal moment for South Korea’s space development program, and we hope to continue to contribute to the global understanding of the moon with what Danuri will discover,” he added.

In June, South Korea successfully launched its first domestically designed space rocket, which put several satellites into orbit, after a failure in October.