Japan’s iSpace failed in its first commercial moon landing attempt

TOKYO, April 25 (Reuters) – Japanese startup ISpace ( 9348.T ) said its first private moon landing attempt failed on Tuesday after its Hakuto-R Mission 1 (M1) lost contact with the lander. crashed into the lunar surface.

As mission control engineers in Tokyo continued to try to gain contact with its lander, “we have lost communication, so we assume that we were unable to complete the landing on the lunar surface,” mission control engineers in Tokyo said in a company live stream. .

The M1 lander appeared to descend autonomously at 12:40 p.m. Eastern Time (1640 GMT Tuesday) after coming within 295 feet (90 meters) of the lunar surface, a live animation of the lander’s telemetry showed.

At the time of the expected touchdown, the engineers at mission control looked anxious as they awaited signal confirmation of M1’s fate, but no such confirmation came.

“Our engineers will continue to investigate the situation,” Hagamada said. “At this point, all I can say is that we’re very proud of the many things we’ve already accomplished during this Mission 1.”

The company said in a statement in Japan on Wednesday that it believes the spacecraft may have made a “hard landing” on the lunar surface. IceSpace said it did not expect an immediate effect on its revenue forecast.

The spacecraft, which launched on a SpaceX rocket in December from Cape Canaveral, Florida, completed 8 of 10 mission missions in space that will provide valuable data for ISpace’s next landing attempt in 2024, Hakamada said. That Mission 2 spacecraft is already under construction.

A successful landing would mark a welcome change from recent setbacks in space technology for Japan, which has big ambitions to build a domestic industry, including a goal of sending Japanese astronauts to the moon in the late 2020s.

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A moonshot is an ambitious goal for a private company. The United States, the former Soviet Union and China are the only countries to have soft-landed a spacecraft on the moon, while attempts by India and a private Israeli company in recent years ended in failure.

About an hour before Tuesday’s scheduled touchdown, the 2.3-meter (7.55-foot) M1 began the landing phase, gradually tightening the lunar orbit from 100 km (62 mi) to about 25 km (15.5) above the surface. miles) traveling at nearly 6,000 km/hour (3,700 mph).

Speaking to reporters on Monday, ISpace Chief Technology Officer Ryo Uji likened the task of slowing the lander to the right speed against the moon’s gravity to “braking a bicycle on the edge of a sky-jumping hill.”

The lander was expected to reach a landing site on the edge of Mare Frigoris in the moon’s northern hemisphere, where it would deploy a two-wheeled, baseball-sized rover developed by Jaxa, Japanese toymaker Tomi Ko ( 7867.T ) and others. Sony Group (6758.T), as well as the four-wheeled “Rashid” rover of the United Arab Emirates.

The M1 also carried an experimental solid-state battery made by NGK Spark Plug Co ( 5334.T ), among other things, to measure how they would perform on the moon.

Report by Kantaro Komiya; Editing by Sang-Ron Kim and Stephen Coates

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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