Hats off to Naro’s blastoff

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Hats off to Naro’s blastoff

The 19th-century Italian astronomer Giovanni Schiaparelli discovered a long line on the surface of Mars while observing the planet through a telescope. The long line he saw might have been the Mariner Valley that stretches some 6,000 kilometers (3,728 miles) across the Red Planet. The news caused huge amounts of excitement on Earth as rumors spread that the line was in fact an artificial canal.

This lead to speculation that there was life on Mars. But it later turned out that the Italian word “canali,” meaning “line,” was mistranslated into English as “canal.”

Considering the speed of space science development today, the episode that took place in 1877 was nothing but an old folktale from a bygone era.

Nevertheless, the existence of water on Mars, though short of the discovery of a canal, was later proved by a photo transmitted by a space probe sent to Mars 120 years later. The existence of water implies the possible existence of living organisms on the planet.

In space science, missions once considered preposterous are later achieved. Only a century after the publication of “From the Earth to the Moon” by Jules Verne, men took their first lunar steps.

The longing for unknown worlds and to go to places that seem impossible to reach have been a source of imagination for much of recorded human history.

Of course, just satisfying people’s curiosity wasn’t the only reason that an enormous amount of money and energy was poured into space exploration during the Cold War era.

The United States and the Soviet Union were engaged in a life-or-death grapple to win the space race. They did so because the technology for space development and that of military purposes were not mutually exclusive.

The technologies developed for space exploration were diverted to more pragmatic ones in private sector industries. Satellite broadcasting technology, which was once called “space relay,” and meteorological forecasts have developed on the back of research into space development.

For instance, freeze-dried foodstuffs, CT scans used for diagnosing diseases and endoscopy technology are all connected to work carried out initially with space in mind.

Though the Naro-1 successfully blasted off into outer space, the rocket failed to send the satellite into the precise orbit. But we don’t have to be disappointed. However cheesy it may sound, failure is indeed the mother of success.

South Korea entered space development in 1992 with the launch of its first experimental communication satellite, “Uribyeol 1.” It took only 18 years from that point to launch a rocket into outer space. It is praiseworthy that Korea has taken a big stride in space development in such a short time.

The writer is a deputy political news editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.

By Yeh Young-june [yyjune@joongang.co.kr]

By Yeh Young-june

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