Japan’s ispace fails to attempt the first commercial moon landing

TOKYO (Reuters) – Japanese startup iSpace (9348.T) said its attempt to make the first private moon landing failed on Tuesday after losing contact with the Hakuto-R Mission 1 (M1) lander, concluding that it was most likely… probably. Crashed on the moon.

“We lost communication, so we have to assume we can’t complete the moon landing,” ispace CEO Takeshi Hakamada said in a company livestream as mission control engineers in Tokyo continued trying to restore contact with their lander. .

A telemetry animation showed the M1 lander appearing to make an autonomous landing around 12:40 p.m. ET (1640 GMT Tuesday) after it came within 295 feet (90 meters) of the lunar surface.

At the time of the expected landing, the engineers at Mission Control looked anxious as they awaited the signal confirming the fate of the M1, but no such confirmation came.

“Our engineers will continue to investigate the situation,” Hakamada said. “At the moment, what I can say is that we are very proud of the fact that we have already achieved many things during this Mission 1.”

The company said in a statement on Wednesday in Japan that it believes the spacecraft may have performed a “hard landing” on the lunar surface. Ispace said it did not expect an immediate impact on its earnings outlook.

Hakamada said the spacecraft launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida, on a SpaceX rocket in December and has completed 8 out of 10 mission targets in space that will provide valuable data for the next space landing attempt in 2024. The Mission 2 spacecraft is already under construction.

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The successful landing was a welcome reversal from recent setbacks in space technology for Japan, which has grand ambitions to build up a domestic industry, including a goal of sending Japanese astronauts to the Moon by the late 2020s.

Launching the Moon is an ambitious goal for a private company. Only the United States, the former Soviet Union and China have landed softly on the moon, with attempts in recent years by India and a private Israeli company ending in failure.

About an hour before its planned descent on Tuesday, the 2.3-meter-high (7.55-foot) M1 began its descent phase, gradually tightening its orbit around the Moon from 100 kilometers (62 miles) above the surface to approximately 25 kilometers (15.5 miles) to travel. nearly 6,000 km/h (3,700 mph).

Ryo Oji, Ispace chief technology officer, speaking with reporters Monday, likened the task of slowing the probe to the correct speed against the moon’s gravity pull to “squeezing the brakes on a bicycle running on the edge of a ski jumping hill.”

The lander was expected to reach a landing site on the edge of Mare Frigoris, in the northern hemisphere of the moon, where it was to deploy a two-wheeled, baseball-sized rover developed by JAXA, Japanese toy maker Tomy Co (7867.T) and Sony Group (7867.T). 6758.T), as well as the four-wheeled UAE Rover “Rashid”.

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

Reporting by Kantaro Komiya; Editing by Chang-Ran Kim and Stephen Coates

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