TOKYO, April 25 (Reuters) – Japanese startup ISpace Inc ( 9348.T ) said the first private moon landing attempt failed after its Hakuto-R Mission 1 (M1) lost contact with the lander. On the lunar surface.
“We lost communications, so we have to assume that we were unable to complete the landing on the lunar surface,” founder and chief executive Takeshi Hakamada said in a company live stream.
It was the second setback for the private space developer in a week, after SpaceX’s Starship rocket spectacularly exploded minutes after liftoff from its launch pad.
A private company has yet to succeed in landing on the moon. The United States, the former Soviet Union and China are the only countries to have soft-landed spacecraft on the moon, with attempts by India and a private Israeli company in recent years failing.
Shares in IceSpace, which delivers payloads such as rovers to the moon and sells related data, were not trading Wednesday morning, but were indicated to fall by their daily range. The stock debuted on the Tokyo Stock Exchange two weeks ago and has since doubled in value.
Hirokazu Matsuno, Japan’s top government spokesman, said that even if the mission did not materialize, the country wanted space to “continue” because its efforts were significant for the development of the domestic space industry.
Japan, which has set a goal of sending Japanese astronauts to the moon by the late 2020s, has experienced some setbacks recently. The National Space Agency had to destroy its new medium-lift H3 rocket after it reached space last month after its second stage engine failed to ignite. Its solid-fuel Epsilon rocket also failed after launch in October.
Brakes on a ski slope
Four months after launching on a SpaceX rocket from Cape Canaveral, Florida, the M1 lander appeared to touch down autonomously at 12:40 p.m. ET (1640 GMT Tuesday), an animation based on live telemetry data as close as 90 meters (295 feet) from the lunar surface.
By the time of the expected touchdown, mission control had lost contact with the lander and engineers were anxiously watching the live stream as they waited for signal confirmation of its fate that never came.
“Our engineers will continue to investigate the situation,” Hagamada said. “At this point, all I can tell you is that we’re very proud of the many things we’ve already accomplished during this Mission 1.”
The lander completed eight of the 10 mission objectives in space, which will provide valuable data for the next landing attempt in 2024.
About an hour before scheduled touchdown, the 2.3-meter-tall M1 began its descent phase, gradually tightening its orbit from 100 km (62 mi) to about 25 km above the surface, traveling at nearly 6,000 km/hour (3,700 mph). )
At such speeds, decelerating the lander to the right speed against the moon’s gravity is like applying the brakes on a bicycle at the edge of a ski-jumping slope, said Chief Technology Officer Ryo Ujie.
It would have used a two-wheeled, baseball-sized rover made by Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, Tomei Co Ltd ( 7867.T ) and aimed at a landing site on the edge of Mare Frigoris in the moon’s northern hemisphere. Sony Group Corp (6758.T). It also planned to send a four-wheeled rover called Rashid from the United Arab Emirates.
The lander carried an experimental solid-state battery made by Niterra Co Ltd ( 5334.T ) among other devices to evaluate their performance on the moon.
The work was insured by Mitsui Sumitomo Insurance Co, a unit of MS&AD Insurance Group ( 8725.T ), and Ispace said it may receive some indemnification.
Report by Kantaro Komiya; Editing by Sang-Ron Kim and Stephen Coates
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