Space, lost contact with Japanese Hakuto-R lander on moon landing

Japanese private company ispace has lost contact with its lunar lander Hakuto-R. The startup announced it, suggesting that its attempt to be the first private company to place a spacecraft on the Moon has failed. “We have not confirmed communication with the lander,” a company official said about 25 minutes after the scheduled landing. “We have to assume that we failed to complete the lunar surface landing,” the official said. The company, which is continuing to work to reconstruct what happened.

What happened

After a moment of enthusiasm, when the lander had re-emerged from the other side of the Moon and there were now only a few minutes left for the moon landing, the wait for the new signal that would have sanctioned the success of the mission began. The lander was supposed to touch down at 18.40, but 20 minutes later there was still silence. Faces increasingly tense in the mission control center in Tokyo, trying to restore communication with the vehicle, but nothing was done. The last signals from the lander were received by the control center in the last stages of the descent, when the vehicle was at a distance of 90 meters above the lunar surface and had reduced its speed to 33 kilometers per hour.

So far only 3 countries have touched the lunar surface

It should have been a record mission because it would have brought a vehicle built by a private company to the moon for the first time. It could also have made Japan the fourth nation to successfully land on the moon, after the United States, the former Soviet Union and China. There was a similar attempt exactly four years ago, when on April 11, 2019 the Israeli Beresheet lander, of Israel Aerospace Industries. he had failed to land due to problems with the main engine and one of the inertial navigation systems. Even that time the moon landing seemed very close, when the mission control center lost contact with the vehicle.

ESA is also among the partners

Hakuto-R M1 is the first mission of the ispace Hakuto program, which takes its name from the white rabbit that according to Japanese mythology would live on the moon. Launched in December 2022 with a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, in February the vehicle had reached 1.3 million kilometers from the Earth, the greatest dust ever reached by a private vehicle, and on March 21 it entered orbit circular, about 100 kilometers above the lunar surface. About the size of a compact car, with four legs that should have extended upon landing, Hakuro-R traveled with a cargo including the UAE’s small Rashid rover, an AI system from the Canadian company Mission Control and the imaging system of Canadensys Aerospace is also Canadian. Among the mission partners is the European Space Agency, which provides communications support.