Update: April 26, 2023
A moonshot mission that captured the world’s attention ended in disappointment as ispace’s lunar lander, carrying a rover developed in the United Arab Emirates, was presumed lost after failing to regain contact with ground control.
The Japanese firm’s attempt to mark the first lunar landing for a commercially developed spacecraft came to a crushing halt when its spacecraft could not complete the landing on the lunar surface, according to Ispace CEO Takeshi Hakamada.
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Instead, it appears that the small robotic spacecraft may have fallen victim to one of the many other lunar surface crashes, putting an end to several high-value payloads for customers seeking lunar exploration.
The impact is particularly disappointing news for Japan and the United Arab Emirates, as both countries were hoping for their initial robotic explorer to be successful on the moon.
Nonetheless, while this event may discourage some private space companies from similar missions in the future, profit-driven entrepreneurs are sure to keep pushing boundaries and striving toward success.
Indeed, NASA itself is currently supporting various commercial missions through its Commercial Lunar Payload Services program (CLPS), enabling other American organizations to attempt similar landings on our closest neighbor in space.
Original News: April 25, 2023
TOKYO – ispace, a private lunar robotic exploration company, has announced the earliest scheduled landing date for its HAKUTO-R Mission 1 Lunar Lander. The historic landing is scheduled for Tuesday, April 25, 2023, at 16:40 (UTC).
The lander is currently in an elliptical orbit around the moon and has successfully acquired images of the moon’s surface.
Lunar Lander’s Mission 1 Success Milestones
Multiple orbital control maneuvers will be performed by the lander to get to a circular orbit at 100 km, once it orbits around the moon, Success 8 of the Mission 1 Milestones will be complete.
The landing sequence will take about one hour, during which the lander adjusts its attitude and reduces velocity to make a soft landing on the lunar surface.
ispace’s HAKUTO-R Aims for Lunar Innovation
ispace’s HAKUTO-R program aims to develop micro-robotic technology to provide a low-cost and frequent transportation service to and on the moon, conduct lunar surface exploration, and map, process, and deliver resources to customers in cislunar space.
The completion of all lunar orbital maneuvers before the beginning of the landing sequence will be announced in late April 2023. The company has set 10 milestones for Mission 1 and aims to achieve the success criteria established for each milestone.
Takeshi Hakamada, Founder and CEO of ispace, said, “What we have accomplished so far is already a great achievement, and we are already applying lessons learned from this flight to our future missions. I would like to once again express my heartfelt thanks to those who have worked so hard on this mission.”
ispace is planning a live-streaming news broadcast of this historic moon landing from Tokyo.
ispace’s Hakuto-R M1 Mission
On December 11th, 2022, the Japanese lunar lander Hakuto R M1 launched along with JPL’s Lunar Flashlight cubesat to search for ice deposits in the permanently shadowed craters on the moon’s poles. This historic launch marks a significant milestone for ispace as they aim to succeed in their first commercial lunar landing.
Hakuto R is part of a two-mission demonstration program by ispace that aims to deploy payloads on the moon’s surface. The company hopes to achieve both the first commercial and Japanese lunar landing, making it a momentous achievement for Japan’s space industry.
ispace, the for-profit company behind Hakuto R, specializes in carrying payloads of several customers to the lunar surface. They collaborate with NASA’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services program and provide their expertise in lunar landing technologies.
Details of Mission One
Mission 1 of Hakuto R carries a CD featuring a song called “SORATO,” as well as a panel engraved with the names of crowdfunding supporters. It also has a solid-state battery from a commercial partner that will undergo testing, an AI flight computer from the Canadian Space Agency, and two rovers.
Among these rovers is Rashid, which is the UAE’s first mission to the moon. It will investigate the stickiness of the lunar regolith and collect data on the plasma environment surrounding it. In addition, Rashid has two high-resolution cameras, a thermal camera, and a microscope to collect extra science data.
Importance of Studying Lunar Regolith Stickiness
The study of lunar regolith stickiness is critical for future human missions on the moon. Since astronauts will be regularly walking or driving through areas where regolith sticks together due to electrostatic forces (akin to silica-filled dust), determining how best to overcome this challenge is crucial.
Regolith moving around on contact can create hazards like covering sensors or clogging equipment such as airlocks and gearboxes. Researchers believe that understanding more about how regolith behaves in different environments could lead to improved designs for spacesuits, equipment cleaning systems and eventually durable bases on extraterrestrial bodies like our Moon – highlighting just how essential studies like those performed by Rashid are for long-term space exploration goals.
The launch of Hakuto R M1 isn’t all ispace has planned for its future endeavors in space exploration. Several new visions are primed for action soon such as SLIM – Smart Lander for Investigating Moon – another Japanese initiative planning advanced instruments development aboard HAKUTO-R spacecraft, aiming to improve future lunar missions’ safety and accuracy.
Furthermore, the company has partnered with SpaceX for another series of Moon landings under privately-funded campaigns called “Mission 4” and “Mission 5.
Who is attempting the Moon landing?
A privately developed Japanese lunar lander called Hakuto-R, built by the company ispace, is attempting the Moon landing.
When is the landing attempt taking place?
The landing attempt is scheduled to take place as early as Tuesday, April 25th, or Wednesday, April 26th
What is the landing process?
The landing process will begin with a braking maneuver by firing the spacecraft’s main engine, followed by a pre-programmed set of commands during which the lander will adjust its attitude with respect to the Moon’s surface and decelerate to make a soft landing.
What is ispace and what are their long-term plans?
ispace is a company based in Tokyo that aims to design and build lunar landers and rovers and ultimately provide high-frequency, low-cost transportation services to the Moon. The company also has long-term plans to develop lunar resources and sell them to others.
How does this landing attempt fit into the larger context of lunar landings?
This landing attempt is part of a growing trend of private companies attempting to land on the Moon. If successful, ispace will become the first private company to make a soft landing on the Moon. Additionally, other private companies are also attempting lunar landings, sponsored in part by NASA’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services Program.