Korea Plans to Send Moon Orbiter in 2020
By Cho Jin-seo
The Ministry of Science and Technology said Tuesday that it plans to send an unmanned probe to orbit the Moon in 2020 and to land another on its surface in 2025.
According to the roadmap of South Korea's space exploration projects, the ministry will also develop a large-size rocket that can carry 300 tons of freight into space by 2017, and will start to build a space shuttle launching system in 2020.
However, the ministry didn't reveal how much the space projects will cost, or how they will be funded. Detailed plans will be fixed later, it said.
The announcement of the ambitious plan comes at a time when all of Asia is caught up with a number of achievements in the space.
Japan launched its first lunar probe, Kaguya, last month, and China soon followed suit with its successful launching of the Chang'e 1 moon orbiter earlier this month. India is also working on a lunar satellite that will be launched early next year, while Malaysians cheered when its first astronaut came home from the International Space Station last month.
South Korea is a late starter in the space exploration field. It has sent around a dozen communication and research satellites into earth orbit in the past decade, but they were all carried on foreign-launched rockets. Hoping to be a space power, the government has steadily increased its space budget for years with the Korea Aerospace Research Institute (KARI) taking the leading role.
KARI will complete the construction of a space research center and a rocket launching pad on the southwestern island of Oinarudo by next year. It is also paying around 20 billion won to Russia to send a Korean astronaut to the International Space Station next April, hoping this will raise public interest in space projects and that the hype will eventually help raise its space exploration budget.
According to the ministry's roadmap, KARI will start developing the moon orbiter in 2017 as soon as it finishes the 300-ton capacity rocket dubbed KSLV-II (Korea Space Launch Vehicle 2)
It will take three years to build the satellite and the rocket and prepare them for launching. If this is finished successfully, the institute will move onto the second moon probe project, which will include an orbiter, a lander and a remote-controlled robot, which will carry out scientific experiments.
The ministry said it will allow private companies to join the KSLV-II rocket manufacturing process once it is developed by KARI.