South Korea is ready to launch the first flight to the moon

South Korea is ready to launch the first flight to the moon

There is only one week left until South Korea launches its first flight to the moon.

The Korean Pathfinder Lunar Orbiter, or KPLO, is scheduled to launch aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket next Tuesday (August 2).

The mission is seen as the first step in South Korea’s ambitious deep space agenda, which also includes an automated moon landing by 2030 and an asteroid sample return mission.

In May this year, KPLO was officially named “Danuri,” a combination of two Korean words meaning “moon” and “enjoy.”

The experimental lunar probe will carry a total of six payloads.

Five were developed by Korean universities and research institutions, including the Korea Aerospace Research Institute (KARI), and the other from NASA.

The six payloads are the Lunar Terrain Imager (LUTI), the Polar Wide Angle Camera (PolCam), the magnetometer called KMAG, the gamma-ray spectrometer known as KGRS, the Payload of Disturbance Tolerant Networks (DTNPL) and a NASA-funded high-sensitivity camera called ShadowCam.

Journey to the Moon…Main missions

Danuri will orbit the Moon for at least a year, if all goes according to plan.

The orbiter’s main missions will be to measure the magnetic force on the lunar surface and assess lunar resources such as water ice, uranium, helium-3, silicon and aluminum, as well as mapping the topography to help identify lunar landing areas.

The probe will take some time to reach the moon after the launch of Falcon 9; Danuri will use the lunar ballistic transfer trajectory, and will eventually reach lunar orbit in mid-December.

Carrie, based in Daejeon, provided NASA with approximately 33 pounds (15 kilograms) of payload mass on the orbiter.

In September 2016, NASA issued an order for scientific instruments designed to advance knowledge of the distribution of volatiles such as water, including the movement of these resources toward permanently shaded lunar regions (PSRs) and how they become trapped there.

The result was NASA’s selection of ShadowCam, a tool developed by Arizona State University and San Diego-based Malin Space Science Systems.

ShadowCam will capture images of shaded areas on the moon using a high-resolution camera, telescope and high-sensitivity sensors.

The instrument’s optical camera is based on the Narrow Angle Camera (NAC) aboard NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO).

NAC has been producing images of the moon for more than 13 years now – but KPLO’s new camera is much more sensitive.

ShadowCam will succeed in photography

Brason Mahanty, ShadowCam Deputy Principal Investigator at Arizona State University in Tempe said:

“ShadowCam will collect high-resolution images of PSRs as they fly about 62 miles (100 kilometers) above the lunar surface for about a year.”

Mahante told Space.com:

“PSRs are typically found in the lower reaches of host craters and topographic depressions where sunlight never reaches.

This makes these areas extremely cold and therefore favorable sites where volatile species, such as water, methane and ammonia, can remain trapped (cold traps) for a long geological period.”

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Mahante said ShadowCam will help search for water ice in polar craters by mapping reflection within PSRs.

PSRs are illuminated only indirectly, by light reflected from nearby topographic features.

But the ShadowCam is optimized for shooting under poor lighting conditions, as it’s 200 times more sensitive than LRO’s NAC.

Just like LROC NAC, which changed our understanding of the moon by collecting unprecedented amounts of high-resolution lunar images,

ShadowCam will probe deeply shaded lunar regions to provide the first-ever high-resolution look at permanently shaded lunar regions.

difficult areas

“It’s a new data set that we don’t have,” said Ben Posey, a ShadowCam research associate at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland.

“The plan is to map both poles throughout the year,” he added.

“In doing so, we can also look for potential seasonal variations in some of these signatures, if any of the volatiles are in any way transient.”

Posey told Space.com that ShadowCam wouldn’t just look for evidence of water.

Another purpose is to identify hazards and determine passability within PSRs, which may assist mission planners in planning trips in and out of these features with future roving vehicles.

“The more raw data we can get on these challenging areas, the more efficient our exploration will be,” Bossi said. “Permanently shaded areas will never be easy.”

Bossi said the ShadowCam science team enjoyed working with their Korean colleagues.

He said the Danuri team has a very impressive payload range on the country’s first lunar orbiter.

As usual, the moon is looming over the horizon.

And the more nations extract more details about Earth’s closest neighbor, the more viable it becomes as a target for ongoing human exploration.

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