Japan’s Ispace Attempts for First Private Moon Landing: Watch Live

The race is back on the moon, and this time, visitors to the lunar surface will include private companies, not just national space agencies like NASA.

The first privately built visitor to land on the moon’s surface intact could be a spacecraft called the M1, a Japanese startup, Ispace. Here’s what you need to know about the task.

When does the moon go down and how can I watch it?

The M1 lander was launched towards the moon in December and is already orbiting the moon. It will head to the surface on Tuesday around 12:40 PM ET (it would be early Wednesday morning in Japan). The landing site is Atlas Crater, a 54-mile-wide crater in the northeastern quadrant of the moon.

Ispace will go live at 11:40 AM ET.

What is Ispace and what does it carry?

The company began as a competitor for the Google Lunar X Prize, a competition that offered a $20 million prize for the first private spacecraft to land on the moon. The Lunar X Prize expired before any team reached the launch pad, but one of them, Team Hakuto, evolved into Ispace.

The company has attracted significant investment, and Ispace plans to launch a series of commercial lunar landers in the coming years.

On this mission, it carries the Hakuto-R M1 lander Lunar rover Rashid From the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Center in Dubai. a Convertible two-wheeled lunar robot from the Japanese space agency JAXA; NGK Spark Plug Solid State Battery Test Module; an artificial intelligence flight computer; and 360-degree cameras from Canadensys Aerospace.

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An artist’s concept of a lunar module built by Ispace.credit…esspace

Why is Ispace trying to land on the moon?

In short, Ispace believes there is money to be made on the moon.

Ispace is one of several companies building small robotic landers to carry scientific and commercial payloads there. This market has been stimulated in part by NASA’s current Artemis program, which aims to land astronauts near the moon’s south pole in the coming years.

As a Japanese company, Ispace can’t compete directly in NASA’s commercial lunar payload services program, but its US subsidiary is part of the team led by Draper, which last year won a $73 million contract to deliver three NASA-sponsored science payloads on the far side. the moon. The Draper mission will largely use a larger Ispace lander design to be built in the United States.

Why is landing on the moon so difficult?

The United States and the Soviet Union succeeded in placing robotic spacecraft on the surface of the Moon more than 50 years ago. Recently, China has landed a robotic spacecraft on the moon three times.

However, getting there on a shoestring budget has proven difficult.

In 2019, a spacecraft built by the Indian Space Agency and an Israeli non-profit organization attempted to land on the moon, but crashed. This is added to the list of moon landings.

A soft landing like the one Ispace is attempting requires the spacecraft to operate autonomously. There is only a short period of time, and the Earth will not deviate from the path.

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It also takes 1.3 seconds for light, including radio signals, to travel from the Moon to Earth, and another 1.3 seconds for a signal from Earth to reach the spacecraft. This makes any adjustments during descent difficult and dangerous.

The Ispace spacecraft can have an advantage that increases its chances. The guidance and navigation software for the M1 was developed by Draper Lab, which made the guidance computer used during NASA’s Apollo moon landings.

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