(WHTM) It would appear a Japanese firm’s attempt to perform the first landing on the moon by a privately operated spacecraft has ended in failure.
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At about 1:06 p.m. EDT Takeshi Hakamada, founder and CEO of the company, Ispace, announced that their Hakuto-R M1 lunar lander “couldn’t complete the landing on the lunar surface.” The Associated Press reports flight controllers lost contact with the spacecraft during the final 33 feet of a 60-mile descent from orbit. The last readings showed it traveling around 16 mph (25 kph).
The Hakuto (Japanese for “White Rabbit”) spacecraft launched from Cape Canaveral on a SpaceX rocket on December 11, 2022. Instead of using a high-speed trajectory like the Apollo and Artemis rockets, Ispace opted for a low-energy path that took the spacecraft to the moon on a three-month voyage. The landing was scheduled to happen Tuesday around 12:40 p.m. EDT, which would be 1:40 a.m. on Wednesday in Japan.
The 7-foot lander (2.3-meter) spacecraft carried multiple pieces of equipment, such as the Rashid lunar rover from the United Arab Emirates, a two-wheeled lunar robot from the Japanese space agency (JAXA), a test module for a solid-state battery from NGK Spark Plug Company, a 360-degree camera from Canadensys Aerospace, and an artificial intelligence flight computer.
The international nature of the payload highlights Ispace’s desire to make trips to the Moon a for-profit enterprise, either by landing scientific experiments for customers, or supplies for long-term lunar explorers. Even though their first attempt failed, they already have two more missions in the works.