The sky’s the limit

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The sky’s the limit

Korea’s long dream of launching rockets into space was finally realized after two disheartening failures. At 4 p.m. yesterday, the country’s first space rocket, the Korea Space Launch Vehicle-1 (KSLV-1), successfully lifted off from the Naro Space Center in Goheung, South Jeolla. After watching the breathtaking moment of the launch, the whole nation rejoiced to hear the news that the KSLV-1 successfully put its 100-kilogram Science and Technology Satellite-2C into orbit.

With that remarkable achievement, Korea became the 11th member of the elite “space club,” which refers to countries that have put their own satellites into orbit from launch pads in their territories via their own space vehicles.

The success is particularly meaningful as it was achieved after failures in 2009 and 2010 and after suffering two postponements due to technical problems. The two failures were part of the cost of space exploration and the price a country pays to reach a stepping stone to advance its space technology.

The success is a tremendous accomplishment for our science and technology community given the critical lack of technology, budget and manpower compared to other space powers. We extend our sincere congratulations to the scientists at the Naro Space Center and elsewhere who devoted themselves to realizing the nation’s dream of making it to space.

The successful launch carries great significance as it shows how we put together the technologies and experiences required to achieve independent space technology. Now, we should make more efforts to facilitate technological advancements. Space technologies that involve materials engineering, combustion engineering and control engineering have a huge ripple effect on other industries. Those technologies are essential to reinforcing our self-reliance in defense as well. The most urgent task for us is developing our own first-stage rocket instead of relying on foreign technology as we did with the Russian-made first-stage rocket used in the launch yesterday.

President-elect Park Geun-hye has expressed interest in space development and vowed to advance the date of developing a Korean first stage launch vehicle from 2021 to 2019. That calls for support systems and sufficient budgets. At the same time, the new government must consider a review of the current research paradigms in order to achieve a synergy effect among technology, capital and know-how by reinvigorating civilian participation in government-led space projects. It is time to take advantage of a space full of opportunities.
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