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Korea to send moon rover by 2032, flag on Mars by 2045

May 30, 2024 - 17:03 By Son Ji-hyoung
A rendered image of a scientific exploratory vehicle on the surface of a Mars-like red sand planet. (123rf)

South Korea will send the first lunar rover by 2032 and plant the first Korean flag on Mars by 2045, according to a blueprint for space exploration that President Yoon Suk Yeol unveiled Thursday.

At the Korea AeroSpace Administration (KASA)'s temporary headquarters in Sacheon, South Gyeongsang Province, Yoon said these goals would be part of the so-called "Space Gwanggaeto Project" unveiled Thursday, named after King Gwanggaeto the Great who ruled the Goguryeo empire on the Korean Peninsula until early 5th century.

So far, three countries -- the US, China and Russia -- have landed lunar exploration vehicles on the moon and on Mars in history. No human has set foot on Mars.

Yoon said in his speech Thursday to commemorate the foundation of the KASA Monday that South Korea will emerge as a country that leads space development by taking on the challenge to explore space, commemorating King Gwanggaeto the Great's "indomitable spirit and audacious embrace of challenges."

KASA will usher in a “new space era” by nurturing experts, supporting the aerospace industry ecosystem and fostering innovative research and development, Yoon added.

President Yoon Suk Yeol delivers a speech during his visit to the temporary headquarters of the Korea AeroSpace Administration in Sacheon, South Gyeongsang Province, on Thursday. (Pool photo via Yonhap)


KASA officially launched Monday. Liquid rocket engine expert Yoon Young-bin serves as the inaugural administrator of the independent body. John Lee, a Korean-American who was formerly a senior executive of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration in the United States, serves as the KASA deputy administrator for mission directorates.

Along with a legislative move to support the country's homegrown space technology, South Korea became the seventh country in 2022 to launch a lunar orbiter with Danuri, and the 11th country to have launched a domestically-manufactured rocket to place an artificial satellite into orbit.

Meanwhile, on Thursday, Yoon said he would work to designate May 27, when the KASA was established, as a national commemorative day called "Aerospace Day."

Yoon also reiterated his pledge to attract 100 trillion won ($72.6 billion) private-sector funding to nurture South Korea's space industry, and to raise the 2027 state budget for space exploration to 1.5 trillion won, up about 80 percent from the budget allocated for this year.

Sacheon is one of the three cities comprising a space industry cluster, along with Goheung, South Jeolla Province, and tech hub Daejeon.