On July 1, South Korean President Park Geun-hye announced an ambitious lunar mission program, just six month after the nation’s first successful satellite launch, conducted in collaboration with Russia.
“This rover will be the ultimate rover that has been developed worldwide so far,” Professor Sung-Chul Kang of the Korean Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) was quoted as saying by Joongang Ilbo, as translated by OOOOjOOOO.
The plan calls for a lunar orbiter by 2020 and a lunar rover by 2025. The latter would be a strontium-powered 20 kg teleoperated rover with 40 km operational radius – farther than any existing rover has travelled. The goal is to stretch the nuclear-powered battery to last at least one month. The nation plans to spend two years raising funds for the project, with development to begin in earnest in 2015.
Given the difficulty South Korea had in getting its KSLV off the ground, the current plan relies on using a preexisting launch vehicle. South Korea seems to want that launch vehicle to come out of a collaboration with NASA – specifically NASA’s Ames Research Center – due to some personal interactions engineers on the project have had with that center. NASA Ames signed an agreement to explore a small satellite program with South Korea in 2008, but it is not at all clear that the center is planning to work with the country on a lunar mission. South Korea has seen rapid growth of its robotics market in recent years and is confident it can design the orbiter and rover itself.
Here is an infographic of South Korea’s ambitious plan: