NASA upbeat about greater space cooperation with South Korea

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The US space agency NASA expressed expectations for greater space cooperation with South Korea, as the two countries are widening the scope of their alliance beyond its longstanding security focus. Mark Clampin, NASA’s astrophysics division director, and John Wisniewski, a NASA scientist for the SPHEREx, a future space observatory, attended an event on bilateral space cooperation at the South Korean Embassy in Washington on Thursday, Yonhap news agency reported. The event took place as Seoul is preparing to launch a full-fledged national space agency, called the Korea AeroSpace Administration (KASA), in Sacheon, some 300 kilometres south of Seoul, on May 27. KASA is to serve as NASA’s counterpart.

“We fully expect that as we get to the future, there will be more collaborations,” Clampin said. “I am sure that there will be other opportunities in the future to further develop the relationship.” Wisniewski underscored the importance of South Korea’s expertise in collaborative projects as he responded to a question about the benefits that NASA gets from cooperation with Korean scientists. “Everybody has their strengths,” Wisniewski said, noting that the SPHEREx, expected to launch in February next year, covers an “incredible” breadth of science.

“Everyone brings their expertise. If you pull those all together, it makes a stronger product.” According to a Korea Astronomy and Space Science Institute (KASI) official, the state-funded KASI has contributed to the SPHEREx programme in terms of legacy sciences, calibration facilities and other areas. Asked to give tips for the soon-to-be-launched KASA, Clampin underlined the need to “learn lessons” from failures. “Every time we do a new mission, we’ve got to take time to think about what we learn from doing this if we do it right,” he said.

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“Quite often, we’ve made mistakes along the way. You have to make it a learning process as you go along.” In his congratulatory remarks, South Korean Ambassador Cho Hyun-dong said that South Korea is largely a newcomer in the space domain but will work hard to “catch up.” “We are catching up soon, maybe sooner than you expect,” he quipped. The event came as Seoul and Washington have been seeking to broaden the scope of their alliance to cover a wide range of areas, including technology, space and economic security.