South Korea is headed for the moon.

Final evening, the nation launched its first-ever lunar mission—in truth, its first-ever mission past low Earth orbit. Previously known as the Korea Pathfinder Lunar Orbiter (KPLO), the mission, managed by the Korea Aerospace Analysis Institute (KARI), is now named Danuri, a play on the Korean phrases for “moon” and “take pleasure in.” Its main objective is to check South Korea’s lunar spacecraft expertise earlier than it makes a bid to land on the floor, tentatively in 2030 if all goes nicely.

Danuri launched atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral House Drive Station at 7:08 p.m. EDT on August 4, with the rocket’s booster touchdown efficiently on the drone ship “Simply Learn the Directions” just some minutes after liftoff.

The spacecraft is now on a really circuitous path to the moon. It is going to first fly in direction of the solar earlier than looping again in direction of its vacation spot, arriving in lunar orbit in mid-December. Taking this longer route, generally known as a ballistic lunar switch, makes use of a gravity help by the solar to make the journey extra fuel-efficient.

When Danuri arrives on the moon, stationed in a 62-mile-high orbit, it can carry out analysis with its six science devices: a magnetometer, a gamma-ray spectrometer, an experimental communications system, and three cameras, together with one designed by NASA that’s delicate sufficient to see contained in the moon’s completely shadowed craters, which might include water ice.

Ought to the mission achieve success, South Korea will develop into the eighth political physique to execute a moon mission, becoming a member of the US, the previous Soviet Union, China, Japan, India, Luxembourg, and the European Union. Nearly all of these missions had been flybys and orbiters, plus a handful of robotic landings, and solely six human landings.

It’s a busy yr for the moon. NASA not too long ago launched its CAPSTONE mission, and its Artemis I mission is because of launch later this month. Russia is slated to make its return to the moon for the primary time since 1976 with its Luna-25 lander, scheduled to launch late this yr. And several other personal organizations are moon-bound, together with American corporations Astrobotic and Intuitive Machines, which can fly underneath NASA’s Industrial Lunar Payload Companies (CLPS) program, in addition to Japanese firm ispace, which can carry a rover constructed by the United Arab Emirates.

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