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Space race

South Korea plans Mars landing in 2045 as it launches first space agency

South Korea plans Mars landing in 2045 as it launches first space agency
South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol (5-L) and other participants, including Yoon Young-bin (5-R), the inaugural head of the Korea AeroSpace Administration, clap during a ceremony unveiling the agency's stone sign at the agency's temporary headquarters in Sacheon, 296 kilometers south of Seoul, 30 May 2024. EPA-EFE/YONHAP / POOL SOUTH KOREA OUT

SEOUL, May 30 (Reuters) - South Korea plans to make a Mars landing by 2045 and spend 100 trillion won ($72.6 billion) until then on space exploration, President Yoon Suk Yeol said on Thursday at the launch of the country's first space agency.

The Korea Aerospace Administration (KASA) will lead the country’s “space economy,” with hundreds of businesses and enterprises working to catapult South Korea into the ranks of the world’s top five space powers, Yoon said.

“KASA will usher in a new space era by cultivating experts while intensively supporting the aerospace industry ecosystem and fostering challenging and innovative R&D,” Yoon said. The country’s first lunar lander is planned for 2032.

South Korea became the seventh country to own an indigenous space launch vehicle and satellite development technology with the launch of the Nuri rocket in May last year that put a commercial grade satellite in orbit.

The agency is aimed at streamlining policy and development functions shared among different government ministries and will bring under its structure the aerospace research institute that developed the Nuri and its precursor space launch vehicles.

South Korea plans at least three more space launches by 2027 and has plans to launch military satellites.

Yoon’s announcement highlights the increasing efforts Asian nations are putting into space programs for practical reasons, such as honing rocket technology, and to bolster national pride.

On Monday, North Korea launched a rocket but failed to put its second military spy satellite in orbit, which it blamed on a new type of engine failing. But one expert noted the attempt as a “huge leap” in the heavily sanctioned country’s race for space.

South Korea, Japan and the United States condemned the North’s launch as violating U.N. Security Council resolutions banning it from developing ballistic missile technology.

China’s space program has developed heavy-lift rockets such as the Long March 5, the Tiangong space station, unmanned moon probes and the rover Zhurong that reached Mars in 2021.

In January, Japan became the fifth country to place a lander on the moon. Last year, India became the fourth nation to land on the moon, after Russia failed in an attempt the same month.

Japan also plans a rover mission to Mars.

($1 = 1,378.2400 won) (Reporting by Jack Kim; Editing by Christian Schmollinger)

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