A Japanese startup will attempt a historic moon landing
MISE À DAY
Japanese startup ispace will attempt on Tuesday to become the first private company to land a robot on the Moon.
If all goes as planned, the he Hakuto-R program lander will begin its descent to the lunar surface around 3:40 p.m. GMT.
It will slow its course some 100 kilometers above the Moon, then adjust its speed and altitude to make a “soft landing” about an hour later.
The success of the mission, however, is far from guaranteed. In April 2019, the Israeli organization SpaceIL saw its probe crash on the surface of the Moon.
Ispace announced three alternative landing sites and could shift the date of the lunar descent to April 26, May 1 or May 3, depending on conditions.
“What we have accomplished so far is already a great achievement, and we are already applying the lessons learned from this flight to our future missions,” ispace CEO and Founder Takeshi Hakamada said earlier this month.
“I look forward to witnessing this historic day, which marks the beginning of a new era of commercial lunar missions.”
Measuring 2 by 2.5 meters, the he lander has been orbiting the Moon since last month, having been launched in December from the US base at Cape Canaveral aboard a SpaceX rocket.
So far, only the United States, Russia and China have managed to land robots on the Moon, which is about 400,000 km from Earth.
Japan and the United States announced last year that they would cooperate to send a Japanese astronaut to the Moon by the end of the decade.
The lander carries several lunar vehicles, including a miniature Japanese model developed by the Japanese Space Agency in collaboration with toymaker Takara Tomy.
Another lunar vehicle (“rover”) built by the United Arab Emirates is also on board.
This Gulf country, a newcomer to the space race, sent an orbital probe to Mars in 2021. If its vehicle named Rashid succeeds in landing on the moon, it will carry out the first lunar mission in the Arab world.
The Japanese firm's Hakuto (“white rabbit” in Japanese) project was one of five finalists in the international Google Lunar XPrize competition, which ended without a winner, no company having managed to land a robot on the moon before the set date (2018).