Korean photo of the Earth from above the moon
The South Korean Space Research Institute (KARI) has released images of Earth taken by the Danuri spacecraft from lunar orbit. The probe, whose name is a portmanteau of the Korean words for “moon” and “enjoy,” was launched on a Space X rocket last August and entered orbit around the Silver Globe in December. Her research will help in selecting potential landing sites on the moon. South Korea plans such a landing in 2032. 12 years later, Seoul wants to put a probe on Mars.
The KPLO (Korea Pathfinder Lunar Orbiter) probe, which received its name Danuri as a result of a public competition, began its mission in the USA, from where it was launched into space on August 5 by a Space X rocket. On December 17, KPLO was the first probe from Korea to enter the orbit of the Silver Globe . Danuri was equipped with 4 native research instruments and a camera provided by the American NASA agency. Its primary task is to image the lunar surface, including the polar regions, where manned missions are to land in the future.
KPLO’s journey to the Moon took a relatively long time, over 4 months, but it was sent on a fuel-saving trajectory. After entering orbit at an altitude of about 100 kilometers, Danuri has already taken a number of images, and will begin a full program of research in January. Two Korean cameras will make it possible to study the surface of the Silver Globe. The first will take pictures with a resolution of 2.5 meters. The second, analyzing the polarization of the reflected light, will help in analyzing its composition. As we read on the website of “The Planetary Society”, scientists hope that this will help to better understand the history of lunar volcanic activity.
KPLO is also equipped with a gamma-ray spectrometer, the measurements of which will complement the study of the composition of the lunar surface, as well as a magnetometer, which will allow us to better understand the remnants of our natural satellite’s magnetic field and assess how much they can provide protection against cosmic radiation. The magnetic field can also reveal information about its past. The last instrument provided by NASA is the so-called ShadowCam. This is a very high-sensitivity camera that will be used to image areas around the poles that are always hidden in shadow. Their research is intended to help in obtaining information about possible water supplies, which may be crucial for future manned missions.
Areas where solar radiation does not reach the Moon directly are to be explored by rovers in the future. For now, however, it is difficult to know them precisely enough to be able to plan a landing there. Too little diffuse radiation reaches NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter and ISRO Chandrayaan 2. Their cameras are not sensitive enough. ShadowCam is set to be a game changer, it is at least 200 times more sensitive than the equipment on board the LRO and is supposed to image shadowed areas as if they were in full sun. With a resolution of 1.7 meters, it should show whether there are indeed layers of water ice that future crews could use.
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