Korea invests to make moon base of 'Silent Sea' a realityKorea is shooting for the moon as it pours funding into space exploration.
It needs to if it wants to get anywhere near the earth's only natural satellite.
In the 2075 of "The Silent Sea," the government sends a group of researchers to a lunar base. Five decades ahead of the drama's setting, Korea's space program is well and truly earthbound.
In a bid to keep up in the international space race, a total of 640 billion won was allocated as the space budget this year, up 39.1 percent from 2021, according to the Ministry of Finance and Economy.
The government is accelerating the pace to extend Korea's technological and industrial frontier as far as the moon, with the country's first lunar orbiter, the Korea Pathfinder Lunar Orbiter (KPLO), slated for launch in August.
The KPLO program was established in 2016. Funds committed to the project over the last six years total 236.7 billion won ($198.7 million).
The lunar orbiter will circle the moon for about a year at an altitude of 100 kilometers (62.1 miles). The next step would be a moon landing.
As countries such as the United States, China and Russia are far ahead in the game, Korea has adopted a more realistic strategy.
Last May, it joined the NASA-led Artemis program.
The primary goal of the project is to send humans to the moon by 2025 and establish a lunar base by 2028. The United States plans to invest about $93 billion by 2025 in the program, which aims to land the first humans on the moon since 1972.
"It would take an immense amount of time and resources for Korea to develop a lunar base on its own like the one in 'The Silent Sea,' so joining an international project such as the Artemis program is the more realistic option," said Lee Chang-jin, professor of aerospace engineering at Konkuk University.
Lee also emphasized that Korea should take the initiative in areas in which it is competitive.
"In order for Korea to take a major role in the multinational projects, we need to focus on our strengths such as telecommunication infrastructure or small nuclear power plant engineering."
Korea's precise role in the Artemis program has yet to be decided.
The government has signed the Artemis Accord, an international agreement for peaceful cooperation in the lunar exploration between member states of the Artemis program, and allocated 5.8 billion won this year to meet the terms.
Many countries participating in the Artemis Accord are U.S. allies, including Japan and Britain. China and Russia are seeking to establish a joint research base on the moon by 2027, eight years earlier than an earlier schedule.
China and Russia have been criticizing the U.S.-led space program, accusing the United States of politicizing space exploration.
The SCMP reported on Dec. 29 that "concerns over US Artemis Accords programme for moon explorations may be behind uncharacteristic rush from the Chinese side."
Investments in the space sector will continue to increase in the future, the Ministry of Science and ICT says.
"There was a significant increase in the space R&D budget this year because new projects, such as the Korean Positioning System development program, are underway," said a spokesperson for the Ministry of Science and ICT.
BY IM SOUNG-BIN [email@example.com]