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(EDITORIAL from Korea JoongAng Daily on Nov. 29)

National 06:59 November 29, 2022

Korea takes a bold step toward space

Korea plans to establish a space agency similar to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in the U.S. by the end of 2023. President Yoon Suk-yeol announced an ambitious plan to develop space in a ceremony on Monday. He made public a detailed roadmap for the country to become a space power by 2045.

President Yoon himself will serve as chair of a national space commission to pave the way for the era of the space economy. The blueprint includes the development of Korea's own launch vehicles that can travel to the moon by 2032 and land on Mars in 2045, the 100th anniversary of the country's independence. To achieve the goal, the government plans to nurture the space industry, train space experts and cooperate with global space powers.

We welcome the president's initiative. After learning space technology such as production of satellites from Korea in the early 2000s, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), a country with only 10 million populations, set up its space agency in 2014. The UAE already took part in the U.S.-led Artemis program aimed at sending astronauts back to the moon. The small Middle East country succeeded in sending a robotic space probe to Mars last year.

Space in the 21st century is not an exclusive stage for strong countries to compete over their national pride. As brisk business activities of SpaceX and Blue Origin show, space has turned into a venue for heated industrial and economic competitions. The world is fast replacing the state-led Old Space era with the New Space era being steered by the private sector.

If some people laugh at space exploration by a country with a meager population of 50 million, they just don't understand the dazzling changes being made on the space front. Countries are fiercely competing to take leadership in developing diverse businesses using low-orbit satellites, building bases on the moon to excavate resources, exploring Mars and beyond. Countless new technologies will appear in the process.

The space agency to be established in Korea will be an organization under the Ministry of Science and ICT. Such a meager footing of the agency sounds alarms as the space industry further expands to the defense, environment, maritime and other frontiers beyond the realm of science. If the space agency is placed under the ministry instead of taking a ministerial-level position, it will certainly face many hurdles in getting cooperation with other ministries or the private sector. In the case of NASA, its head must go through a hearing in the Congress to be appointed by the U.S. president.

We hope the Korean equivalent of NASA to have a status strong enough to surmount invisible barriers between government ministries and eventually usher in the space era led by the private sector.
(END)

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