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Korea, US affirm stronger space alliance

Two countries agree to join forces in deep space, moon exploration

April 26, 2023 - 15:46 By Kan Hyeong-woo
President Yoon Suk Yeol (left) and US Vice President Kamala Harris deliver remarks at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, on Tuesday. (Yonhap)

South Korea and the United States have elevated space cooperation, seeking a stronger space alliance as the two countries agreed to join hands for space exploration and space science.

“I hope that growing bilateral collaboration in space will also enable the two allies to play a leading role in ensuring that the benefits of space exploration are shared by all people around the world and take the helm in establishing fair and rational principles for the use of outer space,” said President Yoon Suk Yeol during his visit to the US National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.

US Vice President Kamala Harris, who leads the US National Space Council, accompanied Yoon’s visit to NASA and echoed Yoon's stance for stronger teamwork in space.

“We renew our commitment to strengthen our cooperation in the next frontier of our expanding alliance. And, of course, that is space. Space presents an undiscovered and unrealized opportunity for our nations and for the entire world. Our task is to work together to guide humanity forward safely, sustainably and peacefully into this new frontier,” said Harris.

With Yoon visiting the Goddard Space Flight Center as part of the state visit to the US this week, South Korea’s Minister of Science and ICT Lee Jong-ho and NASA Deputy Administrator Pam Melroy signed a joint statement of intent for future space cooperation.

According to the joint statement, the two countries will continue discussions on potential cooperation in areas of mutual interests: space communications and navigation, including utilization of the Korea Deep Space Antenna for the NASA Deep Space Network; science and technology research at or on the moon, including at the Gateway, the NASA-led international outpost orbiting the moon; space science including in the fields of heliophysics, astrophysics, planetary science, and Earth science; and activities to further enhance future space exploration such as biological and physical sciences research and activities on the lunar surface, including mobility and robotics and utilizing the Republic of Korea’s expertise in hydrogen cells.

The two sides confirmed their mutual interest in developing agreements to study concepts for cooperation in such areas that could lead to advances in exploration and scientific discovery.

The joint statement also mentioned the Yoon administration’s upcoming national space agency -- the Korea AeroSpace Administration or KASA -- to be included as the proper point of contact to develop space cooperation and carry out discussions as well as joint activities. The Korean government has been pushing to establish KASA before the end of this year.

“With KASA on the way, cooperation between KASA and NASA down the road will be the driving force behind forging a strong space alliance. The first step in that direction will have to be a bilateral communication platform that can facilitate joint projects and the exchange of people, information, and knowledge between KASA and NASA. I look forward to valuable input from NASA in shaping KASA through personal exchange and other means.” said Yoon.

The Yoon administration laid out the goals of landing on the moon in 2031 and on Mars in 2045, highlighting the keyword of the space economy and the importance of the space industry as one of the core growth engines of the future.

The South Korean president is on a five-day state visit to the US this week. A summit with US President Joe Biden is slated for Wednesday at the White House.

President Yoon Suk Yeol (second from right) shakes hands with Jonny Kim, a Korean-American NASA astronaut, during his visit to the Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland on Tuesday. (Yonhap)