On April 25, Japan's space exploration company, ispace, lost contact with its Hakuto-R Mission 1 spacecraft shortly after the spacecraft was confirmed to be in vertical position as it attempted its lunar landing. This was the company’s attempt to place the first commercial lander on the moon.
In Dec. 2022, ispace sent its lander to space aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying various payloads such as two rovers, including the UAE’s Rashid rover, the first Arab-built lunar rover. It reached lunar orbit in March. It is likely that the lander was damaged or destroyed as it hit the lunar surface, causing ispace engineers to lose contact with the spacecraft. ispace is still investigating the potential causes.
This mission was significant to both Japan and the UAE, as it would have broadened the horizons of space research in the UAE, allowing Emirati engineers to study properties of lunar soil, the petrography and geology of the moon, dust movement and surface plasma conditions and the moon's photoelectron sheath. And for Japan, it represented an attempt at the first commercial venture on the moon.
Lunar landings are notoriously difficult to manage, in part due to the moon’s lack of atmosphere, which makes complex maneuvers necessary for deceleration. Mass concentrations in the moon also cause gravitational anomalies and may endanger a lander in touchdown. Only the former Soviet Union, the US and China have achieved the coveted soft landings. Recently, landers by India and Israel also crashed on the moon
ispace CEO Takeshi Hakamada asserted that this mistake will not deter the company from future missions. “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,” he said in a statement
. ispace is still determined to continue its lunar mission and aims to create a lunar settlement by 2040.
Arwa Alabbasi is Deputy News Editor. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.