SEOUL, Feb. 29 (UPI) -- South Korea might be one step closer to putting a man or a woman on the moon.
Seoul said Monday it had reached an agreement with the United States on space cooperation, Yonhap reported.
For South Korea, the agreement is the first of its kind, and joint projects could include explorations of the moon and Mars, a strategy that could segue with U.S. space program objectives.
NASA has been planning a journey to Mars for the last five years, but it would take the United States 20 to 40 years to send astronauts to the planet at a cost of about half a trillion dollars, Ars Technica reported.
NASA's total funding for exploration programs is at $180 billion, to be budgeted over the next two decades.
The agreement with South Korea could attract investment into U.S. space programs and give Seoul in turn an opportunity to work with U.S. space technology.
South Korea also stands to benefit from upgrading its space program, which has so far lagged behind neighbors China and Japan.
Heo Hwan-il, a professor of aerospace engineering at South Korea's Chungnam National University, said the agreement reflects the will of both countries to cooperate with each other in the field of space, including moon exploration.
Lee Chang-jin, a professor of aerospace information systems engineering at Konkuk University, said Korea has been seeking cooperation on moon exploration within a larger framework, and the new agreement holds promise.
Lee said space programs are often too costly for one country to manage alone, and South Korean scientists could find opportunities to make greater contributions to space programs on an international scale.