Tokyo-based ispace aims to make lunar history.
A Japanese private moon lander is vying for historical significance.
The Hakuto-R lander from Tokyo-based ispace is slated to launch on November 28 for the moon's Atlas Crater in preparation for a soft touchdown, which could be the first by a private firm ever on the lunar surface.
Hakuto-R will launch from Florida's Cape Canaveral Space Force Station aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and make its lunar landing no early than April 2023. After touching down, Hakuto-R will launch Rashid, a tiny United Arab Emirates rover. The four-wheeled rover will use a high-resolution camera, a thermal imager, a microscopic imager, and a probe designed to look at electrical charges on the lunar surface to study the moon for 14 Earth days.
Hakuto-R might not be the first private mission to soft-land on the moon, though. According to Spaceflight Now's launch calendar, NASA has assigned the business Intuitive Machines to launch its Nova-C lunar lander, currently planned for March 2023, while Astrobotic's Peregrine lunar lander will launch in the first quarter of 2023. (opens in new tab). It's hard to predict which of these businesses will take off first at this early stage.
Takeshi Hakamada, the founder and CEO of ispace, said in a statement(opens in new tab) on Thursday, November 17, one day after NASA launched the unmanned Artemis 1 toward the moon to launch its Artemis human lunar program. "Our first mission will lay the foundation for unleashing the moon's potential and transforming it into a robust and vibrant economic system," Hakamada said.
It is challenging to safely land on the moon, particularly for private enterprises that lack the resources of a national government. For instance, the privately funded Beresheet lander of SpaceIL lost control while attempting to land. 2019. A new age is apparently beginning, with a swarm of little commercial landers settling on the moon to prepare the way for upcoming landings of humans.
The Commercial Lunar Payload Services programme (CLPS), which is supported by NASA's Artemis programme, will enable a number of businesses, including ispace, Astrobotic, and Intuitive Machines, to launch further robotic missions to the surface during the next ten years. (CLPS does not sponsor Hakuto-R, but NASA has given ispace's partner Draper the duty of leading a team attempting a risky lunar far-side landing scheduled for no early than 2025.)
On the northeast side of the moon, close to Mare Frigoris, is Atlas Crater, the major landing location for Hakuto-R. ("Sea of Cold"). Ispace stated that the location was chosen to "maintain flexibility during operations," but the corporation provided little other details beyond stating that the location provides for "various contingencies" during the mission's protracted transit phase.
According to ispace officials, "constant sun-illumination duration and communication visibility from the Earth" were carefully taken into account when choosing the target point. Alternative landing targets include, among others, Oceanus Procellarum, Sinus Iridium, and Lacus Somniorum.
The ispace-managed team for the Google Lunar X-Prize went by the name "Hakuto," which translates to "white rabbit" in Japanese (GLXP). The GLXP, which offered $20 million to the first commercial team that could land on the moon and do some objectives, ended in 2018 without having a winner.
Originally planned to land on the moon in 2021, Hakuto-R (the "R" stands for "rebooted") was delayed because of technical difficulties and other factors. The business wants to use lunar water ice that can be mined on-site to eventually enable human settlement.
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Edited by: Satyavrat Singh