Japan’s Hakuto-R Module Likely Accelerated Before Lunar Crash

Guests watch livestream of HAKUTO-R private lunar exploration program on screen during the lunar landing event Wednesday, April 26, 2023, at Miraikan, the National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation, in Tokyo.InternationalIndiaAfricaThe company behind the Japanese lander announced in late March that the Hakuto-R craft had officially entered the moon’s orbit, after having been launched into the cosmos in early December 2022.The Japanese module HAKUTO-R likely made a hard landing after unexpectedly accelerating toward the moon, Japanese firm ispace has confirmed.The company detailed during a Wednesday news conference that communication with the spacecraft is unlikely to be reestablished but that officials were continuing to sift through data that was successfully transmitted.

"It apparently went into a free-fall towards the surface as it was running out of fuel to fire up its thrusters," Ryo Ujiie, who served as the chief technology officer for the project, said at the conference.

Officials have indicated that the module accelerated sharply in the last seconds before likely crash-landing, noting that communication was still active until the very last moments. The company has admitted it would be difficult to consider the landing a success.It was noted that during the final stage of landing, the device was descending in a vertical position.Beyond PoliticsJapan’s First Private Lunar Mission Fails to Confirm Successful LandingYesterday, 01:16 GMTIn the aftermath, the incident caused ispace stock to lose 20% in value after a day of no trading, in accordance with the exchange’s policy of balancing buy and sell orders.© Photo / ChartChart of decline in the value of shares of the ispace company.Chart of decline in the value of shares of the ispace company.The company intends to improve technological readiness for subsequent missions in 2024 and 2025. The founder of ispace, Takeshi Hakamada, stated they were able to gather a huge amount of information and gain experience from the failed landing attempt.

"We believe that we have fully accomplished the significance of this mission, having acquired a great deal of data and experience by being able to execute the landing phase," Hakamada said in a company statement. "We are already developing Mission 2 and Mission 3 concurrently and have prepared a foundation that can maintain this continuity."

Ispace plans to deliver its own rover to the moon in 2024, and bring NASA payloads to the moon from 2025, helping US space lab Draper to build a permanently staffed lunar colony by 2040.Japan’s Hakuto-R module with the Arab rover Rashid was launched toward the moon in December 2022 using a Falcon 9 launch vehicle from US company SpaceX. Japan planned to become the fourth country in the world to successfully land a vehicle on the moon, after the USSR, US and China.The landing attempt puts the Japanese company on par with a private Israeli company and SpaceX, whose recent attempts to develop private spaceflight have failed.

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