Update: 2:20 p.m. ET April 25: Ispace says it’s apparently lost contact with the spacecraft. It said the Hakuto-R Series 1 lander was to touch down at 1:40 a.m. JST (April 26), but “at this time, Hakuto-R Mission Control Center in Nihonbashi, Tokyo, has not been able to confirm the success of the Lunar Lander.”
The release continued: Ispace engineers and mission operations specialists in the Mission Control Center are currently working to confirm the current status of the lander.”
Ispace said id would announce further information once it’s available.
An attempt at the first privately funded lunar landing is about to take place, and you can watch a live stream of the effort on Tuesday.
Japan’s ispace launched its Hakuto-R Series 1 lander to the moon aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket in December, and since then it’s been heading for insertion into a lunar orbit, which it achieved on March 21.
“During the sequence, the lander will perform a braking burn, firing its main propulsion system to decelerate from orbit,” ispace said on its website. “Utilizing a series of pre-set commands, the lander will adjust its attitude and reduce velocity in order to make a soft landing on the lunar surface. The process will take approximately one hour.”
The privately built Hakuto-R Series 1 lander is carrying two small moon rovers: the Sora-Q for the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency, and the Rashid, built by the United Arab Emirates space agency.
While the Sora-Q and the Rashid will spend time examining the geological properties of the lunar surface, the mission is primarily a test event aimed at proving ispace’s ability to successfully land a payload on the lunar surface.
Doing so will secure ispace membership in an elite club that includes only the U.S., China, and the former Soviet Union.
Two other nations — India and Israel — have also attempted to land on the moon in separate missions in 2019, but both efforts failed. India is preparing to try again in a couple of months’ time.
How to watch
ispace will attempt to land its payload at 9:40 p.m. PT on Tuesday, April 25 (1:40 a.m. on Wednesday, April 26, Tokyo time).
A live stream will begin at 8:20 a.m. PT. You can watch it via the player embedded at the top of this page, or by heading to ispace’s YouTube channel, which will show the same footage.
A successful landing this week by ispace will set it up nicely for a second mission next year that will involve landing more commercial payloads while also gathering a lunar soil sample for NASA.
Another mission could see it send scientific instruments to the moon for NASA in 2025 as part of the space agency’s plan for renewed exploration of the lunar surface in the Artemis program.
Tokyo-based ispace was founded in 2010 and gained prominence around five years ago after making the finals of the Google-sponsored Lunar X Prize, a contest that encouraged entrants to become the first private team to put a robot on the moon.
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