Japanese private mission Hakuto-R failed in its attempt to land on the Moon

The Japanese mission Hakuto-R should have arrived at the destination at 16:41 GMT this Tuesday, according to calculations by the Japanese company ispace, which broadcast the attempted moon landing live. Had it been successfully completed, it would have been the first achieved by a private mission.

According to the latest data available from Ispace, updated this Wednesday at 8:00 am Japanese time (23:00 GMT on Tuesday), “communication between the spacecraft and the mission control center was lost although it was expected to be retrieved after landing. The Tokyo-based company said in a statement.

For this reason, Ispace determined that “Phase 9” or the penultimate phase of the mission could not be successfully achieved, i.e. the completion of the lunar landing. The tenth and final phase consisted of establishing a stable communication system with the probe and its power supply in order to guarantee its operability on the ground.

If successfully completed, it would have been the first successful lunar landing by a private mission.

The company was able to confirm that the probe was in an upright position as it approached the lunar surface and that it made its final approach to it.

However, after the estimated time to reach the destination, “no data was received indicating that it touched land”, explained the company, which shortly afterwards lost all communication with the probe.

“Based on this information, it was determined that there is a high probability that the probe made a forced landing on the lunar surface,” added Ispace, whose engineers are working on a detailed analysis of the data received to “try to clarify the details” of the fate. by Hakuto-R.

According to the Japanese company, there is a high probability that the probe made a forced landing on the surface of the Moon.

“We assume that it fell (on the lunar surface) after its fuel ran out,” explained the mission’s chief of operations, Ryo Ujiie, at a press conference on Wednesday.

The probe began to descend, reducing its speed to about 20 kilometers in height and changing its position as expected, so it is possible that it touched the lunar surface “although without lowering all four legs”, added Ujiie.

The ‘fundamentals’ of the next mission

The founder and CEO of Ispace, Takeshi Hakamada, said that although the company “does not expect to complete the lunar landing” of its first mission, other objectives were achieved, such as “acquiring a large amount of data and experience” to carry out another similar operation. .

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“We will use this learning for mission 2 and beyond,” Hakamada said at a press conference, referring to the next project that Ispace plans to carry out by 2024, which consists of sending another probe to the Moon and deploying a rover. .

The president of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), Hiroshi Yamakawa, stressed in the same vein that what happened to the Hakuto-R “will serve as a basis for the next mission”.

Ispace’s next project for 2024 will consist of sending another probe to the Moon and deploying a rover

JAXA, which collaborates with the Japanese company, “will continue to take steps together with Ispace and with industry and international organizations, to contribute not only to space exploration, but also to the sustainable development of human society,” said Yamakawa. .

The Japanese Aerospace Agency sent a similar mission to the Moon in collaboration with NASA last November, although communication with that too was lost a day after its launch.

The Japanese Prime Minister, Fumio Kishida, also wanted to evaluate the importance of the mission despite not having fulfilled its objective, stating that Hakuto-R “sends a strong message to continue walking” and that his government will continue “to support these relentless challenges of start-ups in space”.

Ispace founder Takeshi Hakamada (C) poses with members of his team. EFE/ EPA/ Franck Robichon

The Hakuto-R lunar probe was launched aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral (Florida, USA) last December. This one, about 2.3 meters high and 2.6 meters long, carried a small exploration robot developed by JAXA and the Japanese company Tomy, as well as a lunar rover designed by the United Arab Emirates.

A planned landing in the Atlas crater

The spacecraft began its descent on Tuesday from an altitude of 100 kilometers above the moon and was scheduled to land in Atlas, an 87 kilometer crater in the lunar northern hemisphere.

Founded in 2010, Ispace defines itself as a global company whose vision is to “expand the planet” and “expand the future” through concrete actions such as offering low-cost, high-frequency transport services between the Earth and the Moon .

The company has offices in Japan, Luxembourg and the United States, and has joint projects with NASA and the European Space Agency.

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