4½ months voyage for South Korea’s first lunar probe

SEOUL, 6 Aug 2022:

South Korea’s first lunar mission was on its way to the moon yesterday after a successful launch of Danuri – officially called the Korea Pathfinder Lunar Orbiter.

The Danuri spacecraft is the first mission to carry South Korea outside of Earth’s orbit, ushering in a new era in South Korean space research.

The spacecraft made its first contact with a NASA network antenna in Australia about 90 minutes after taking off from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Base in coastal Florida.

The South Korean Ministry of Science announced the probe was on its intended course to the moon, with its solar panels producing electricity and all onboard electronics functioning normally.

Danuri’s voyage to the moon is expected to take 4½ months, during which it will undertake scientific activities for nearly a year.

“Korea is now taking a great leap beyond earth,” science minister Lee Jong-ho said in remarks after the launch. There is still a long way to go for Danuri, including entering lunar orbit and carrying out its one-year mission,”

NASA, the project collaborator, said the three overarching goals of the KPLO mission are realising the first space exploration mission by South Korea, developing and verifying space technologies suitable for deep-space exploration on future missions and investigating the physical characteristics of the lunar surface to aid future robotic landing missions to the moon.

The probe has a cubic shape and carries two wings of solar panels to charge the energy it uses.

It also has a satellite dish mounted on one of its arms. Its unladen weight is 550kg.

NASA and the South Korean Aerospace Research Agency sealed a collaboration agreement in 2016.

If Danuri succeeds, South Korea will join the club of nations that have carried out lunar landing or moon exploration missions. The countries include the US, China, Japan, India, the EU and the former Soviet Union.