On Wednesday, Dec. 12th, North Korea joined the space race. Just outside the capital of Pyongyang, they successfully launched the Uhna (Korean for “galaxy”) rocket, carrying the Kwangmyongsong-3 satellite into space.
The residents of Pyongyang danced in the snowy streets and drank their favorite North Korean brews.
"It's really good news," resident Jon Il-gwang told the Associated Press. "It clearly testifies that our country has the capability to enter into space."
Choe Ryong Hae of the North Korean military called the launch “a political event with great significance in the history of Korea and humanity."
The rest of the world was decidedly less enthused. The United Nations Security Council (no stranger to punishing the pugilist nation for repeatedly exploring a nuclear program) condemned the launch and vowed to rapidly consider “an appropriate response.”
The United States followed suit, with the White House deeming the launch a “highly provocative act that threatens regional security.” Even China, the same China that’s usually more-or-less vocally supportive of the oppressive, militaristic regime, voiced “deep concern” regarding the action.
The joke, however, is that Kwangmyongsong-3 is probably already space junk.
"It's tumbling and we haven't picked up any transmission," according to astronomer Jonathan McDowell, speaking to The New York Times. "Those two things are most consistent with the satellite being entirely inactive at this point."
The satellite’s mission, besides being a symbolic middle finger to the world, was to vaguely “observe earth” and to broadcast North Korea-praising songs. Scientists say that there is no sound emitting from the satellite, which is roughly the size of a washing machine.
“They may not be able to point the radio antenna in a direction where they can communicate with the satellite,” Glenn Lightsey, professor of aerospace engineering at the University of Texas, told NPR.
In less than a month, North Korea’s space program went from successful to completely incompetent. The nonfunctioning hunk of metal will remain in Earth’s orbit for years to come.
The secretive nation, however, declares the claims regarding the satellite’s failure are lies.
“The scientific and technological satellite is fitted with survey and communications devices essential for the observation of the earth,” according to North Korean state media. The successful launch of the satellite is a proud fruition of the Workers’ Party of Korea’s policy of attaching importance to the science and technology.”
“It is also an event of great turn in developing the country’s science, technology and economy by fully exercising the independent right to use space for peaceful purposes,” the agency added.