SpaceX just launched South Korea's first mission to the Moon

South Korea is headed to the Moon, having successfully launched its first lunar mission on Thursday. Loaded aboard 's Falcon 9 rocket, the Korea Pathfinder Lunar Orbiter (KPLO) began its four and a half month-long trip to the Moon at 7:08 p.m. EDT, taking off from Cape Canaveral in Florida.

The KPLO was developed through a collaboration between NASA and the — South Korea's space agency. Its launch is a significant mission not only for South Korea, but also for SpaceX. While Elon Musk's space company has launched numerous rockets over many years, they typically don't aim for the Moon. SpaceX previously used a Falcon 9 rocket to launch , however the mission ultimately failed with the lander crashing on the Moon's surface.


Thursday's KPLO launch was a promising start, but we'll have to wait until mid-December to find out if the mission is a success. Rather than travelling directly to the Moon, the KPLO — also known as "Danuri" — will use in order to reach its destination. This technique uses the Sun, Moon, and Earth's gravitational pulls to place the orbiter into the Moon's path, allowing it to get caught in lunar orbit. This means the Danuri will use much less fuel, but will also take a longer time to get to the Moon.