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Korea seeks to land on Mars by 2045

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President Yoon Suk-yeol announces Korea's Future Space Economy Roadmap during an event at the JW Marriot Hotel in Seocho District, Seoul, Monday. Yonhap
President Yoon Suk-yeol announces Korea's Future Space Economy Roadmap during an event at the JW Marriot Hotel in Seocho District, Seoul, Monday. Yonhap

President unveils roadmap for space economy

By Nam Hyun-woo

Korea will launch a space mission to Mars no later than 2045, according to a roadmap for the nation's space mission unveiled by President Yoon Suk-yeol on Monday.

"A country having a space mission will lead the world economy and be able to resolve challenges human beings are facing," Yoon said during an event to announce the country's roadmap for the space economy at the JW Marriot Hotel in Seoul.

The space economy refers to the economy beyond our planet, including exploring deep space, extracting resources that are rare on Earth and developing technologies necessary for space exploration.

"The dream of becoming a powerhouse in space is not distant. It will be an opportunity and hope for children and the youth," he added.

As part of the roadmap, Korea aims to develop within the next five years an engine for a launch vehicle that can fly to the moon. Korea plans to have its spacecraft land on the Moon and begin mining lunar resources in 2032, and then land on Mars in 2045, when the country will celebrate its 100th anniversary of independence from Japanese colonial occupation.

"By 2045, we will be able to plant our national flag on Mars," Yoon said. "To make this happen, we will develop unimaginable technologies and explore uncharted areas."

To facilitate this roadmap, the government has set policy goals to assist the exploration missions to the moon and Mars, develop space technology and related industries, train experts, bolster national security through space and lead international cooperation for space programs.

"For these goals, we will double our space-related budget within the next five years, and attract at least 100 trillion won ($74.7 billion) of investments," Yoon said. "We will transfer space technologies owned by public agencies to the private sector and organize a funding program to develop world-leading private space companies."

To carry out these goals, the president will chair the national space committee and the government will also establish the Korea Aerospace Administration (KASA).

The Ministry of Science and ICT said it launched a team dedicated to setting up KASA and began drawing up specific missions that the administration should pursue as well as strategies for launch vehicles, satellite technologies, space resources development and other goals.

Following the team's launch, the government will table a special act in the first quarter of next year calling for the establishment of KASA. If the bill is passed by the National Assembly in the second quarter, the administration will begin operations within that year.

"Korea has been showcasing its potential in space programs with its recent launches of the Nuri rocket and the Danuri lunar orbiter, and it is time for the government to assist its space ambitions by setting up national aerospace governance," First Vice Minister of Science and ICT Oh Tae-seog said.

Korea's efforts until now to strengthen its presence in space have been showing desirable outcomes this year, ushering in a new era of space exploration for the country.

The Nuri, also known as Korea Space Launch Vehicle-II, was successfully launched into space on its second liftoff attempt on June 21. It marked the country's first-ever locally-developed rocket, as its predecessor, the Naro, which was successfully launched in 2013, was based on Russian engine technology.

Two months later, the Danuri, also known as the Korea Pathfinder Lunar Orbiter, was sent into lunar orbit on Aug. 3, aboard SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket launched from the United States. It was seen as Korea's first step to join the space economy following other advanced countries that are active in the field.

Nam Hyun-woo

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