Scattered reports from South Korea say that its neighbors north of the 38th parallel have finished assembling a long-range rocket and are enthusiastically prepping the launch pad. North Korea intends to send this rocket to space, against the wishes of pretty much every other nation on Earth. But North Koreans are not bothered by these Earthly inconveniences. They're sending a rocket to space! They hope so anyways.
Nobody was entirely sure how serious North Korea was about this rocket launch until Monday evening, when satellite images showed workers scampering around the launch pad. Now, North Korea's statements about following through with the launch between December 10 and December 22 seem pretty realistic. The South Korean news agency Yonha reports, "The North is now expected to install support equipment, such as radar, cameras and measuring before fueling the rocket." Meanwhile, all three stages of the long-range rocket have been assembled, and fueling is expected to happen this weekend.
Let us reiterate the fact that essentially everyone has condemned North Korea's plan to send a rocket -- with a satellite on board -- into space. That's because nobody believes that North Korea is innocently sending a satellite into orbit as part of some new space program. After all, North Korea is very poor and rocket launches are very, very expensive. What's more likely, the world thinks, is that North Korea is actually testing the technology that it would need to launch ballistic missiles, possibly armed with nuclear warheads. The country seems determined to get this done. It already tried in 2009, weathering the international backlash and blatant violations of United Nations Security Council resolutions.
But hey, the entire world might be wrong about this one. Maybe North Korea does just want to see what space is like. That country's just full of surprises.