South Korea aims to join the Asian space race

South Korea announced ambitious plans to launch a lunar probe by 2020, joining an unofficial Asian space race that has seen Japan and China successfully launch lunar probes to the moon, said South Korean space officials.  The country also hopes to launch a second lunar probe in 2025, this time aiming to land on the moon.

The Ministry of Science and Technology also said South Korea wants to develop the Korea Space Launch Vehicle-2 (KSLV-II), a new rocket with the ability to carry a payload up to 300 tons into space.  A new research center and rocket launch pad should be completed next year in late 2008 or early 2009.

The first generation of KSLV, the KSLV-I, is slated to launch sometime in 2008.

South Korea has sent a dozen satellites into orbit, but had to rely on foreign rockets every time.

South Korea plans to invest almost $4 billion USD into space research over the next 10 years, hoping to be able to develop and launch its own rockets and satellites.  KARI also plans to pay Russia to ferry a Korean astronaut to the International Space Station (ISS) next year.

The Japan and Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) Selenological and Engineering Explorer (SELENE) lunar probe successfully captured high-definition videos of the Earth rising and of the lunar surface.  The Chinese Chang'e 1 space probe will begin to transmit its own findings back to Earth sometime next month.  The Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) also has had recent success with its initial space plans.

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