Credit: Korean Aerospace Research Institute

A focused investigation of the Moon’s permanently shadowed regions is an objective of South Korea’s first Moon mission, the Korean Pathfinder Lunar Orbiter under the wing of the Korean Aerospace Research Institute in Daejeon, Korea.

Scheduled for an August 2022 lunar sendoff atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 Block 5 booster, the Korean Pathfinder Lunar Orbiter (KPLO) will conduct its exploration mission for one year, supporting the NASA Artemis program by measuring the existence of water or resources and topographic characteristics of candidate landing sites for “rebooting” the Moon with human crews.

KPLO carries six science instruments; five instruments from South Korea and one from NASA:

  • Lunar Terrain Imager
  • Wide-Angle Polarimetric Camera
  • KPLO Magnetometer
  • KPLO Gamma Ray Spectrometer
  • Delay-Tolerant Networking experiment

A recent and major milestone for the KPLO effort was installation on the spacecraft of the NASA-contributed ShadowCam.

Credit: Korean Aerospace Research Institute/KARI TV


Permanently shadowed regions

ShadowCam will investigate the Moon’s permanently shadowed regions (PSRs) that will provide critical information about the distribution and accessibility of volatiles in PSRs at spatial scales required to both mitigate risks and maximize the results of future exploration activities.

ShadowCam instrument being lifted for mounting to the Korean Pathfinder Lunar Orbiter satellite at the Korean Aerospace Research Institute in Daejeon, Korea.
Credit: Courtesy KARI


Explains Mark Robinson, ShadowCam’s principal investigator at Arizona State University, the instrument is based on the successful Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera (LROC) Narrow Angle Camera (NAC) and will be over 100 times more sensitive (altitude dependent) than the current NAC.

ShadowCam’s science objectives include searching for deposits of frost and ice and find out whether high-purity ice or rocky deposits are present inside PSRs.

KPLO spacecraft being lifted off the floor by its mounting ring at KARI.
Credit: Courtesy Mark Robinson, ASU/KARI




Manufactured and provided by the U.S., NASA’s ShadowCam is a high-precision camera playing the role of viewing permanent shadow areas that sunlight cannot reach such as craters located in the north and south poles of the Moon.

If available, processed ice resources could yield oxygen, water, and rocket fuel to be utilized by future lunar expeditions.

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