[Column] What S. Korea's Nuri rocket carries with it into space

한겨레 입력 2021. 10. 20. 17:16
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Though space exploration is oft motivated by military aims, it also inspires us to dream of what awaits us in the vastness of the universe
(illustration provided by jaewoogy.com)

The South Korean Nuri carrier rocket is scheduled for a launch on Oct. 21 from the Naro Space Center in Goheung, South Jeolla Province.

Development of the Nuri began in 2010, with the design, production, testing, and launch management all based on domestic technology.

The first stage of the rocket combines four 75-ton liquid fuel engines to produce 300 tons of thrust, with a second stage consisting of one 75-ton engine and a third stage consisting of one seven-ton engine. At the tip is a 1.5-ton model satellite.

If the launch is successful, it will place South Korea among the ranks of countries with the ability to place a 1.5-ton working satellite into an orbit 600 to 800km above the earth’s surface.

Space technology has direct ties to military capabilities with intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) and intelligence satellites, but it also has profound ripple effects in a wide range of other areas.

Microwave ovens were first developed to prepare meals on spaceships without the need for an open flame. Other examples of commercialized space technology include water purifiers, self-driving capabilities, navigation, vacuum cleaners, air purifiers, Gore-Tex, memory foam, freeze-dried food, and excimer lasers.

The digital image signal processing technology developed to transmit photographs taken in space is a key technology responsible for the digital world. According to NASA, over 1,800 different technological products as of 2012 were derived from space technology.

The Nuri consists of some 300,000 components and involved a budget of approximately 2 trillion won (US$1.7 billion).

While space exploration is motivated by military aims and the development of advanced technology, it also inspires dreams of the infiniteness signified by space and things that exist beyond our reality.

The Voyager 1 and 2 spacecraft, which were launched by NASA in 1977 to explore interstellar space beyond the solar system, included “Golden Records” meant to introduce Earth to extraterrestrial life.

While some opposed this as a dangerous move that could provoke an invasion of the earth, “Cosmos” author Carl Sagan — a leader of the project — said, “The spacecraft will be encountered and the record played only if there are advanced spacefaring civilizations in interstellar space. But the launching of this bottle into the cosmic ocean says something very hopeful about life on this planet.”

The Golden Records on the Voyager spacecraft represented a message and affirmation and hope toward the people of Earth.

In his “Harbor Journey,” poet Kwak Jae-gu writes that the name of every tiny fishing boat in the harbor speaks to the dreams and longing of its owner. The name of the Nuri — a Korean word meaning “world” — which was selected through a nationwide contest, expresses the dreams of our world expanding beyond the Earth and into the universe.

By Koo Bon-kwon, senior staff writer

Please direct questions or comments to [english@hani.co.kr]

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