ispace moon landing

Tokyo firm’s Moon lander appears to have crashed on the surface

Image credit: reuters

Efforts by a private venture to land on the surface of the Moon have failed and contact with the lunar lander has been lost, Japanese startup ispace has said.

The Hakuto-R Mission 1 Lunar Lander was expected to land on the surface just before 5pm GMT yesterday (Tuesday 25 April), after spending some weeks orbiting the Moon in preparation.

But ispace has admitted that communication between the lander and the Mission Control Center was lost around 11pm.

Based on the currently available data, the Mission Control Center was able to confirm that the lander was in a vertical position as it carried out the final approach to the lunar surface.

But shortly after the scheduled landing time, no data was received indicating a touchdown. Engineers were monitoring the estimated remaining propellant and saw it depleting fast, after which the descent speed rapidly increased.

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

ispace moon landing

ispace employees bow their heads after the signal from the lander was lost

Image credit: reuters

To find the root cause of this situation, ispace engineers are currently working on a detailed analysis of the telemetry data acquired until the end of the landing sequence.

The Mission Control Center said it had acquired valuable data and know-how from the landing sequence that should allow ispace to have more success in future landing attempts.

ispace currently plans a second mission (Mission 2) next year followed by a third (Mission 3) in 2025.

“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,” said Takeshi Hakamada, CEO of ispace.

“What is important is to feed this knowledge and learning back to Mission 2 and beyond so that we can make the most of this experience.

“To this end, we are already developing Mission 2 and Mission 3 concurrently and have prepared a foundation that can maintain this continuity."

Other objectives for the mission that were achieved included proving that the lander could survive deep space flight for a full month as well as maintaining a steady lunar orbit.

Hiroshi Yamakawa, president of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), said: “As a fellow Japanese space enthusiast, I am proud of ispace’s challenge and respect the efforts of everyone involved. ispace will analyse the data obtained from this mission and use it as a foundation for the next mission.”

Only three governments have successfully touched down on the Moon: Russia, the US and China. An Israeli non-profit tried to land on the Moon in 2019, but its spacecraft was destroyed on impact.

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