Japan’s ispace Moon Landing Bid Fails, Lander Likely Crashed

Japan’s ispace Moon Landing Bid Fails, Lander Likely Crashed
A model of the lander of HAKUTO-R private lunar exploration program is displayed prior to livestream of the lunar landing event at Miraikan, the National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation, in Tokyo on April 26, 2023. (Eugene Hoshiko/AP Photo)
Aldgra Fredly
4/26/2023
Updated:
4/26/2023

Japanese lunar exploration company ispace said Wednesday that it had lost communication with its unmanned spacecraft, Hakuto-R, which it sent to the moon, and the mission was presumed to have failed.

“Now we lost the communication. So we have to assume that … we could not complete the landing on the lunar surface,” ispace CEO Takeshi Hakamada told reporters, according to Kyodo News.

The Hakuto-R Mission 1 lunar lander was expected to touch down on the moon at 1.40 a.m. (local time) on Wednesday, but flight controllers lost contact with the lander moments before its descent, according to ispace.

“Shortly after the scheduled landing time, no data was received indicating a touchdown,” the company said in an update.

The lander was in a vertical position when it was approaching the moon. The amount of remaining propellant reached the lower threshold, and “shortly afterward, the descent speed rapidly increased,” it stated.

“Based on this, it has been determined that there is a high probability that the lander eventually made a hard landing on the moon’s surface,” ispace said.

‘Keep Moving Forward’

The company said it was conducting a detailed analysis of the telemetry data acquired until the end of the landing sequence to determine the cause of the incident.
“Although we do not expect to complete the lunar landing at this time, we believe that we have fully accomplished the significance of this mission, having acquired a great deal of data and experience by being able to execute the landing phase,” Hakamada said.

“We will keep moving forward,” he said, adding that the company is already developing Mission 2 and Mission 3 concurrently and have prepared a foundation to maintain this continuity.

The 2.3-meter-long spacecraft carried seven payloads, including a rover from the United Arab Emirates and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency’S (JAXA) transformable robot. It would have marked Japan’s first lunar landing if the mission had succeeded.

“Today, ispace’s Hakuto-R Mission 1 became the first private company to attempt to land on the moon, but unfortunately, the landing could not be realized,” JAXA’s president Hiroshi Yamakawa stated.
ispace chief technology officer (CTO) Ryo Ujiie speaks next to CEO Takeshi Hakamada during a press conference in Tokyo on April 26, 2023. -Japanese start-up ispace conceded on April 26 its ambitious attempt to become the first company to land on the Moon had ended in failure, but pledged to move ahead with new missions. (STR/JIJI Press/AFP via Getty Images)
ispace chief technology officer (CTO) Ryo Ujiie speaks next to CEO Takeshi Hakamada during a press conference in Tokyo on April 26, 2023. -Japanese start-up ispace conceded on April 26 its ambitious attempt to become the first company to land on the Moon had ended in failure, but pledged to move ahead with new missions. (STR/JIJI Press/AFP via Getty Images)
The Hakuto-R mission took off from Cape Canaveral, Florida, in the United States in December last year.

It took a long, roundabout route to the moon following its December liftoff, beaming back photos of Earth along the way. The lander entered lunar orbit on March 21.

Only three governments have successfully touched down on the moon: Russia, the United States, and China. An Israeli nonprofit tried to land on the moon in 2019, but its spacecraft was destroyed on impact.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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