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South Korean Spacecraft Launched to the Moon

With the launch of a lunar orbiter on Thursday that will survey potential landing sites, South Korea joined the rush to the Moon. To save fuel, the SpaceX-launched satellite is travelling a lengthy, circuitous route; it will arrive in December. If successful, it will join Chinese rovers now investigating the far side and American and Indian spacecraft already orbiting the Moon.

A number of commercial enterprises in the United States and elsewhere, as well as India, Russia, and Japan, have fresh missions that will launch later this year or next. Next up is NASA, which will launch its massive Moon rocket in late August.

A boxy, solar-powered satellite is part of South Korea’s $180 million mission, the nation’s first move toward lunar exploration. It is intended to skim barely 62 miles (100 kilometres) over the lunar surface. From this low polar orbit, researchers hope to gather geology and other data for at least a year. In the span of six weeks, it is South Korea’s second attempt.

South Korea used its own rocket to successfully place a group of satellites into orbit above Earth in June. The test satellite was unable to enter orbit during the first attempt last November. And in May, South Korea became a part of a consortium lead by NASA to explore the Moon with astronauts in the next decades. The start of NASA’s Artemis program’s maiden launch is planned for the end of this month. Before a crew climbs onboard in two years, the plan is to launch an empty crew capsule around the Moon and back to test the systems.

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