The most recent mission to the moon was launched by South Korea, a signatory to the Artemis Accords. The mission is called Danuri, or Korea Pathfinder Lunar Orbiter. Danuri, which is a combination of the Korean words “dai” meaning moon and “nuri” meaning enjoy, is South Korea’s first deep-space mission. It is another example of the growing international nature of space exploration.

The Danuri was launched on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. The Falcon 9, because of its reusability, has become so affordable that several entities, including smaller countries like South Korea, can now explore space. South Korea has been a technologically advanced country for decades and can now add deep space travel to its portfolio. The Korea Aerospace Research Institute (KARI) has already launched numerous satellites into Earth orbit and is developing its own line of launch vehicles, including the KSLV-1 and the KSKV-2.

NASA is a partner in the South Korean moon mission. The American space agency provides the communications and navigation services of its deep-space networks and an instrument called ShadowCam.

ShadowCam is a more advanced version of the Narrow Angle Camera that was carried on board the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter. The instrument is designed to detect ice in the permanently shadowed craters at the lunar poles. The ice will be a fuel resource for future lunar explorers.

Space exploration used to be a tool of superpower competition. It still is, to a certain extent, as China increasingly becomes an opponent to the United States and its allies. However, because of a Reagan administration strategy, the proposal of a space station with international partners, NASA’s Artemis return to the moon program is also driven as much if not more by international cooperation.

By becoming a partner in the Danuri mission, NASA is pursuing a strategy developed by Former Associate Administrator for Space Policy and Partnerships Mike Gold during the Trump administration.  Gold was the father of the Artemis Accords. By forming international partnerships for the Artemis program. NASA is enhancing American soft political power. Most countries in the world will realize that participation in returning to the moon is one of the perks of being America’s friend. The scientific and engineering expertise of many nations will be occupied with returning humans to the moon, this time to stay.

If all goes well, Danuri will enter a polar orbit around the moon by the middle of December. It will spend at least a year taking measurements of the lunar surface, seeking possible landing sites for future missions, including crewed missions under the Artemis program.

KARI already plans a second lunar mission, which will include another orbiter as well as a lander and a rover, by 2030. The mission is planned to be launched on a Korean domestically built rocket, the KSLV-2.

Danuri is the second lunar mission to launch in 2022, the first being the recent NASA CAPSTONE mission. Future missions include Intuitive Machines’ Nova-C and Astrobotics’ Peregrine under the Commercial Lunar Payload Services program as well as international missions such as Japan’s Hakuto-R and India’s Chandrayaan-3, scheduled for late 2022 or early 2023. Japan is a signatory of the Artemis Accords. So far, India has yet to sign the international agreement governing activities on the lunar surface.

These and other uncrewed missions are leading to the Artemis crewed missions to the moon. Artemis-1, which will not carry a crew, is slated to launch on Aug. 29. Artemis-2, which will carry four astronauts, including a Canadian, around the moon is scheduled for 2024. The first crewed lunar landing, Artemis-3, will depart for the moon’s surface as early as 2025.

The Apollo lunar missions carried Americans to the moon 53 years ago. The Artemis expeditions will certainly be international in nature, crewed not just by Americans, but by astronauts from many nations. Artemis will be the greatest undertaking by an alliance of countries that does not involve waging war.

America landed on the moon first on July 20, 1969, earning for itself everlasting glory in the Cold War against the Soviet Union as well as a bounty of science. The civilized world will return to the moon in three or so years, earning not just glory and science, but the economic wealth Earth’s nearest neighbor promise. In a world beset by war and political strife, returning to the moon is surely a good thing.

Mark R. Whittington is the author of space exploration studies “Why is It So Hard to Go Back to the Moon?” as well as “The Moon, Mars and Beyond,” and “Why is America Going Back to the Moon?” He blogs at Curmudgeons Corner.

Source