A Japanese company could be about to make history. Japan’s ispace is attempting to land its Hakuto-R spacecraft on the Moon at 12:40 pm ET, and you can watch the live stream right now. If all goes well, ispace will claim both the first successful private moon landing and the first Japanese moon landing of any kind. To date, only China, the Soviet Union, and the US have landed. The vehicle includes payloads from NASA, JAXA from Japan and a small robotic rover (Rashid) from the United Arab Emirates. The rover is also historic as the UAE’s first lunar spacecraft.
Hakuto-R launched aboard a SpaceX rocket about 100 days ago. The landing is divided into six stages including an out-of-orbit insertion, a largely engine-less “cruise” phase, a braking burn, a reorientation, and two final phases in which the machine slows down and (hopefully) reaches the surface intact. Israel’s SpaceIL attempted a private moon landing in 2019, but crashed after engine failure.
A full landing will help ispace’s goals of sending two more landers to the Moon in 2024 and 2025. It could also spur Japan’s broader spaceflight ambitions. Both JAXA and the Japanese companies have had trouble getting into space using domestically made rockets. While ispace relies on a US rocket to complete its mission, a landing would dwarf SpaceX, Blue Origin and other private teams vying to land on Earth’s cosmic neighbor.
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