Japanese moon lander might have crashed on the Moon's surface. The Japanese firm aiming to execute a unique private landing on the Moon has stated the communication link was severed with Hakuto-R just before it was supposed to land at about 16:40 GMT on Tuesday.
The technical team is currently examining the cause of the mishap. iSpace, headquartered in Tokyo, had anticipated that the lander would deploy a rover for exploration and a toy company's tennis ball-sized robot. The spacecraft was launched in December via a SpaceX rocket and took five months to traverse the distance to the Moon.
Around 25 minutes after the scheduled landing, Takeshi Hakamada, the CEO of iSpace, announced that they had not established communication with the lander. He went on to state that they had to assume the landing was not successful. However, he also mentioned that the company had accomplished the mission's significance by obtaining substantial data and experience during the landing phase.
Live animation displayed that the M1 lander had come within 295 feet (89 m) of the lunar surface and appeared to be on track to touch down. The lander was relatively small, measuring just over 2m in height and weighing 340kg, which is compact compared to other lunar spacecraft. The landing manoeuvre was set to take an hour from its orbit at approximately 100km above the surface, where it was travelling at a speed of nearly 6,000km/hour.
Once the Hakuto-R had arrived at the landing site in the northern hemisphere of the Moon, two payloads were scheduled for deployment to study the lunar soil, geology and atmosphere. One of the payloads was produced by the toy company TOMY, which is famous for creating Transformers. To date, only the United States, Russia, and China have succeeded in placing a robot on the lunar surface through government-funded programs.
In 2019, Israel's Beresheet mission attempted the first private company landing on the Moon. Although the spacecraft orbited the Moon, it was unsuccessful during the landing. Later in the same year, India's attempt to land a probe on the Moon also failed.
The main objective of the Japanese mission was to evaluate the feasibility of commercial launches to the lunar surface. It marked the first test by iSpace for a sequence of commercial landers that the company intends to launch over the next several years, with each endeavor more ambitious than the previous one.
iSpace envisions delivering commercial services to facilitate a sustained human presence on the lunar surface, including sending equipment for mining and creating rocket fuel.
According to Dr. Adam Baker, the director of the space consultancy company Rocket Engineering, a successful landing would have represented a "significant advance" in commercial involvement in space exploration.
According to his interview with the BBC:
If it is affordable and repeatable, it would pave the way for anyone willing to pay the cost to land something on the Moon's surface.- Dr. Adam Baker, the director of the space consultancy company Rocket Engineering