iSpace: Japanese lunar lander likely crashed

By George Wright & Kathryn Armstrong in LondonBBC News25. April 2023

Updated 3 hours ago

picture description,

Photos taken by the spacecraft over the weekend

A Japanese company hoping to conduct a rare private moon landing says it’s likely its lunar module crashed on the surface.

Communications with Hakuto-R were lost shortly before landing around 16:40 GMT on Tuesday.

Engineers are investigating what happened.

Tokyo-based iSpace had hoped the lander would unleash an exploration rover and a tennis ball-sized robot developed by a toymaker.

The vehicle was launched from a SpaceX rocket in December and took five months to reach its destination.

“We have not confirmed communications with the lander,” iSpace CEO Takeshi Hakamada said about 25 minutes after the scheduled landing.

“We have to assume that we could not complete the landing on the lunar surface,” he added.

Mr. Hakamada later said that while the company did not expect to complete the mission, it “fully realized the meaning of this mission after accumulating a lot of data and experience by conducting the landing phase.”

The M1 lander appeared ready to touch down after coming within 89 m (295 ft) of the lunar surface, live animation showed.

The lander was just over 2 m tall and weighed 340 kg, which was relatively small and compact for lunar spacecraft. It was due for a one-hour landing from its orbit about 100 km above the surface, where it was traveling at almost 6,000 km/h.

After reaching the landing site in the northern hemisphere of the moon, the Hakuto-R should deploy two payloads to analyze the lunar soil, its geology and atmosphere. One of them was made by the toy company TOMY, which created the Transformers.

READ :  OpenAI doesn't do enough to make ChatGPT's limitations clear

The United States, Russia and China are the only countries that have managed to place a robot on the lunar surface, all through government-sponsored programs.

In 2019, Israel’s Beresheet mission was the first attempt by a private company to land on the moon. His spacecraft managed to orbit the moon but was lost during the attempt to land.

The main objective of the Japanese mission was to assess the feasibility of commercial launches to the lunar surface. It was the first test of iSpace, which they hope will be a series of commercial landers over the next few years, each more ambitious than the one before.

The company’s vision is to provide commercial services for a sustained human presence on the lunar surface, such as: B. Shipping equipment for mining and making rocket fuel.

according to dr Adam Baker, director of non-project related space consulting firm Rocket Engineering, said a successful landing would have marked a “step change” in commercial involvement in space exploration.

“If it’s affordable and it can be repeated, it opens the door for anyone willing to pay the price to land something on the surface of the moon,” he told the BBC.

video caption,

Watch: a demonstration of the mini lunar robot designed to roll across the lunar surface