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[Editorial] Rocket failure

Sending a huge rocket into space and keeping a spacecraft in orbit is a prestige that not many nations of the world are allowed to enjoy yet. As much as the soaring of the massive vehicle into the blue sky symbolizes the rise to the advanced rank in the world community, the fizzling of the rocket from midair brings so much frustration to the millions on the ground.

Koreans have in recent decades built up pride as a global leader in the production of many gadgets that provide convenience and amusement in the modern life such as TVs, cell phones, automobiles and large ships. But the failed launch of a space vehicle on Thursday -- the second in less than a year -- made Koreans realize the considerable gap existing in the scientific area that will affect the future of mankind.

That the apparently malfunctioned first stage of the KSLV-1 rocket was the part assembled by the Russians under a 2004 contract does not offer much consolation. Some tough negotiations with the Russians are now expected as the contract made them responsible for providing the first stage of the third rocket in case of the failures of previous ones.

More disappointingly, it amounted to a step back because the earlier August 2009 launch was at least half successful. At that time, both the Russian-built first stage and the Korean-made second stage worked well but the rocket failed to put the satellite into its planned orbit due to faulty fairings.

The failure even made South Koreans recognize the exploits of North Korea which has twice fired long-range rockets claiming them to be space exploration projects. South Korea is now more determined to develop the space technologies toward the goal of launching an entirely Korean-made Naro-2 by 2020, but that schedule will have to be revised following an inquiry into the mid-flight explosion of KSLV-1.

When we look over the history of mankind’s space endeavors, there were multiple failures in laboratories, launching pads and in the air, some costing human lives. The two failed launches should not let us down but should rather serve to boost the perseverance of our engineers and scientists in their daunting desire to catch up others as many Koreans did in many areas of industrial development.
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