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HAKUTO-R – 1st private moon lander – loses contact in last moments

HAKUTO-R – 1st private moon lander – loses contact in last moments

Japanese aerospace company ispace attempted the first private mission to land on the moon today (April 25, 2023). The mission was called HAKUTO-R. Many watched excitedly as the moment of landing approached, but – suddenly – the team lost contact with the lander. Ispace had said it wants to aid in the exploration and development of the lunar surface. it said it wanted to contribute:

… to the construction of a cosmic-scale sphere of life that will support humankind.

But this first attempt met a bitter end.

This was the first of three planned missions. The second mission, scheduled for 2024, was to include a rover. And the third mission’s goal was to deploy swarms of rovers for discovery and development.

The overall goal is the steady development of the lunar industry for a human presence on the moon.

At this writing, the company’s plans are unknown.

Journey to the moon

The HAKUTO-R mission launched to the moon in December 2022. The spacecraft has sent back some amazing images as it neared the moon. It even caught the shadow of the moon on Earth during the April 20, 2023, eclipse, with the moon in the foreground.

An angled view of cratered moon closeup with perfect blue globe of Earth over moon's limb.
The HAKUTO-R mission captured this jaw-dropping image of the moon with Earth in the background. You can see the dark shadow of the moon over Australia during the April 20, 2023, eclipse. Image via ispace.

Here are the 10 steps it took to reach the moon. The team has not yet uncovered what caused the mission to fail, but it occurred in the very last moments of landing in step 9.

Diagram showing the 10 steps and explanations from launch to moon landing.
View larger. | The HAKUTO-R mission had hoped to achieve 10 major milestones. Image via ispace.

Crash(?) landing on the moon

The lander aimed for Atlas Crater on the moon. The team had three backup locations in case anomalies required last-minute changes to the landing site. The company chose Atlas Crater to get 12 days of sunlight on the lunar surface. They also wanted a relatively flat surface that still had geologic diversity.

Gray cratered surface of the moon with a closeup on just a handful of craters with labels.
The primary landing site for the HAKUTO-R Mission 1 was Atlas Crater. Image via ispace.

HAKUTO-R was carrying a number of government and commercial payloads. This was the beginning of what they hoped to be a regular commercial enterprise. They will certainly try again. Best wishes for their future success!

Bottom line: On April 25, 2023, ispace attempted to achieve the first private moon landing with their HAKUTO-R mission. The team lost contact with the lander in the last moments.


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