North Korea announced plans to land on the surface of the moon and plant their flag in the lunar soil within 10 years, despite international sanctions, and experts say they could succeed.
A senior official from North Korea’s space agency said the hermit country’s five-year space plan involves launching more satellites into orbit, including a geostationary communications satellite.
Hyon Kwang Il, director of the scientific research department of North Korea’s National Aerospace Development Administration told the Associated Press that his country is also planning to train more rocket scientists.
“Even though the U.S. and its allies try to block our space development, our aerospace scientists will conquer space and definitely plant the flag of the DPRK on the moon.”
North Korea plans to start launching astronauts into space, conduct experiments in orbit, travel to the moon, and explore the solar system, Hyon told the AP.
“Our country has started to accomplish our plan and we have started to gain a lot of successes. No matter what anyone thinks, our country will launch more satellites.”
Outside experts agree a manned moon mission is possible for North Korea although they admit it’s unlikely, astrophysicist and international satellite expert Jonathan McDowell told The Guardian.
“It would be a significant increase in technology, not one that is beyond them.”
While the U.S. is the only country to have landed astronauts on the moon, other nations have succeeded in sending unmanned spacecraft to the lunar surface.
North Korea already has two satellites in orbit above Earth, KMS-3-2 and KMS-4, which few other countries have managed to do. The nation claims the satellites send back data four times a day, but outside experts have been unable to confirm or deny any communications.
The hermit country has also made a number of breakthroughs in long-range military rocket technology; Wednesday it unexpectedly test fired two medium range ballistic missiles into the Sea of Japan.
The test violated UN Security Council resolutions and spooked the nearby country of Japan, according to the SFGate.
“The missile landed within Japan’s exclusive economic zone. There was no warning whatsoever. It is certainly a major, major problem for the security and safety of our region.”
The missile tests were an example of the technology North Korea would need to launch a manned space mission and reach the surface of the moon.
Markus Schiller, an expert on North Korea’s missiles and rockets said the country might have an easier time crash landing a unmanned spacecraft on the moon than launching a satellite into geostationary orbit, according to the AP.
“Judging from what I have seen so far with their space program, it will take North Korea about a decade or more to get to lunar orbit at best, if they really pursue this mission.”
A U.S. spacecraft did its first flyby of the moon a mere six months after the country’s first satellite achieved orbit over the Earth, and the USSR did the same in a year-and-a-half, McDowell told CBC News.
“So it’s not ridiculous to attempt a moon mission early in your space program.”
Some experts worry North Korea’s space program is merely a military program in disguise, but Hyon told the AP that view is hypocritical because it was America, the USSR, and China who first militarized space. Many of the rockets used to launch satellites into space first saw use as ICBMs.
That argument probably won’t stop sanctions against the hermit country, however, as the UN seems intent on stopping North Korea from testing rockets that could have military applications.
What do you think? Could North Korea reach the moon in 10 years?
[Photo by AP Photo/File]