[단독]The Ministry of Science and Technology abandons the first Korean exploration of asteroids … “an opportunity of 20,000 years” Apophis, no more challenge

Image of the asteroid Apophis approaching Earth about 31,600 km away on April 13, 2029 (Image = National Aeronautics and Space Administration)

The cancellation of Project Apophis, which was supposed to be the first Korean exploration of asteroids, has been confirmed. This is because the Ministry of Science and Information and Communications Technology (Ministry of Science, Information and Communication Technology) has given up on ensuring a budget for the exploration of the asteroid Apophis.

As a result of coverage on the 24th, the Ministry of Science and ICT provisionally concluded that the Apophis exploration project will not be submitted to the preliminary feasibility study for the second quarter of next June. The decision came after it became clear that it would be difficult to complete the issues referred to in the first quarter assessment within three months.

The Apophis Exploration Project was planned with the goal of carrying out the first asteroid exploration mission in Korea, investing 387.3 billion KRW from 2024 to 2030. As the Ministry of Science and ICT abandoned budget security, Korean researchers could only observe the approach of the asteroid. The approach to Earth, which occurs once every 20,000 years. Currently, there is no specific joint international research plan for the exploration of Apophis in which the Korean research institutes participate.

The opportunity to create a business as a Yeta survey is given four times a year, once a quarter. In its previous assessment in the first quarter, the Scientific and Technological Innovation HQ, which is responsible for analyzing the feasibility of research and development at the Ministry of Science and ICT, deemed the Apophis exploration project “impossible to continue.” The probability of success is uncertain. The medium- and long-term space development plan did not include exploration.

The new space policy team at the Ministry of Science and Information and Communications Technology, which raised the Apophis exploration as an initial screening target, conducted a review process with research institutes to decide whether to reload the project to achieve its Yeti goal. Investigation in the second chapter. We analyzed whether the issues highlighted in the assessment could be completed in the first quarter and checked if we could take advantage of the opportunity again in the application in the second quarter.

The policy team and research team of Newspace decided not to set the Apophis exploration project for the second quarter of the second quarter, considering that the problems indicated by the headquarters of scientific and technological innovation could not be solved in a short period of time. “I did not see any change in the situation, despite the project being put into the Yeti investigation 3 months later. We are talking about it,” said Yoon Mi Ran, Head of Policy Team at Newspace at the Ministry of Science and Information Technology.

If it is identified as the objective of the initial evaluation, the implementation of the budget is confirmed by an additional procedure that examines the expected effects of the research and its economic feasibility. If the total cost of the project is 50 billion won or more and the government subsidy exceeds 30 billion won, the project can only continue after passing the initial investigation. The Apophis Exploration Project did not emerge as a target for this research in the first quarter, and in the second quarter it was closed entirely because it did not continue.

Programmed exploration of research and development … “Magino line” has already passed

The decision of the Ministry of Science and ICT not to accept the project as a subject for preliminary examination in the second quarter means that it has abandoned the Apophis exploration. Unlike other space exploration programs, the proximity of the asteroid Apophis to Earth has a fixed research and development schedule. If the level of development is insufficient, it means that it is impossible to move forward with a project that can increase the degree of achievement for a longer period.

The scientific community saw the development schedule as tight even as the work plan was submitted for initial screening in the first quarter. Therefore, in the selection of the second quarter, the evaluation considered the “Magento Line”. There is no possibility that the Apophis exploration project, which was not accepted as an initial realization target even in the second quarter, will continue into the third quarter.

The asteroid Apophis, whose size is estimated at 370 meters, will pass Earth at a distance of 31,600 km on April 14, 2029. A local research team analyzed that the probe should be launched in mid-October 2027 to directly observe Apophis. It passes close to a geostationary satellite (36,500 km) like Chollian. In other words, this means that exploration can continue only after the research and development is completed on time. Uncertainty about whether all preparations could be completed in time for this period constituted a hindrance in the assessment of the first quarter.

The projected path of the asteroid Apophis approaching Earth from about 31,600 km on April 13, 2029 (Video = National Aeronautics and Space Administration)

Exploration of the first asteroid in Korea has been delayed since 2035

In the first quarter assessment, a lack of content in the third core promotion plan for space development prepared in 2018 was cited as one of the reasons for the ‘impossibility of moving forward’ for Apophis exploration. This plan is a mid- to long-term national roadmap for space development that is developed every five years. In the third central space development promotion plan, it is planned to develop an asteroid sample return vehicle after 2035. This means that the excessive proximity of Apophis has judged the justification for pushing the development process for more than 10 years was not enough.

Nevertheless, the scientific community found it useful to continue Apophis’ journey. Near-Earth asteroids, such as Apophis, mostly flow out of the asteroid belt and retain the initial appearance of the Solar System. This means that it has a high academic value. In addition, an accident with a class object at a distance of 300 meters closer to a satellite in geostationary orbit occurs approximately once every 20 thousand years. As it can be seen from a very close distance, it was seen as a “genius and shower” that could improve human understanding of asteroids.

In addition, an asteroid the size of Apophis also poses a threat to the level of destruction of the continent if it collides with Earth. Researchers in Korea believe that by observing and analyzing these celestial bodies in the field, they can proactively protect data needed for planetary defense.

A detailed plan for its implementation also emerged. In Korea, the Korea Institute of Astronomy and Space Sciences (Institute of Astronomy) is leading the preparation for the Apophis Exploration Project. An exploration plan is also proposed to launch a probe in mid-October 2027, sail for 12.5 months and approach Apophis from a distance of up to 10 kilometers to perform a follow-up flight. In February, the Astronomical Research Institute signed a memorandum of understanding on research and development cooperation with the Korea Aerospace Research Institute (KAERI) and the Defense Scientific Research Institute (Korea Research Institute) and set a specific timeline. But the plan was scrapped due to a failure to secure a budget to promote it.

However, the Ministry of Science and Information and Communications Technology plans to add relatively specific details about asteroid exploration to the “Master Plan for the Promotion of Space Development,” which has been an obstacle in the evaluation of the Apophis exploration project. Team Leader Yun explained, “We plan to come up with a basic plan to boost space development later this year.

Korea’s first asteroid exploration mission, ‘Apophis Exploration’, planned by the National Institute of Astronomy and Space Science (Source: Korea Institute of Astronomy and Space Sciences)

No 400 Billion Won… The Flag Is ‘I’m Sorry’

In the scientific community, there is a backlash that it is “a pity” that the opportunity to explore the asteroid, which appeared about 20,000 years ago, was lost due to the lack of a budget of about 400 billion won. One of the scientists, who asked not to be named, said, “Given the size of the Korean economy, 400 billion won is a waste of opportunity near a super asteroid. I was expecting results but it is very unfortunate that the project failed. We respect the decision of the department promoting it. For For the project, but I hope that a more flexible bureaucratic atmosphere will be created, as the science policy official has also been replaced due to the change of government.”

This person also pointed out the difference between the government’s decision and the method of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). Recently, NASA decided to extend the mission of the OSIRIS Rex asteroid probe led by the University of Arizona, USA, to explore Apophis for 18 months. Apophis’ exploration showed flexibility to modify the original plan to seize the opportunity. This is in stark contrast to the South Korean government’s decision to reject the initial examination that the exploration of Apophis was not included in the basic plan to promote space development.

“Research information about Apophis can be shared in academia, but the reason is the desire to do the exploration directly,” said Choi Young-jun, principal investigator at Cheon Moon Yeon, who led the creation of this year’s Apophis exploration plan. turn or turn. In a phone call with a reporter. Namely, “Korea takes the lead” in all operations. This is because I wanted to build a research ecosystem,” he said. “We will do everything in our power to ensure that asteroid exploration is well reflected in the plan to promote the development of the space core in the future,” he said.

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