Perhaps the first attempt to land a commercial spacecraft on the Moon failed. International news agencies reported this on Tuesday. The Japanese technology company ispace, which developed the device, lost contact with the Hakuto-R, as the vehicle is called, before the planned landing. It is not yet clear what happened to the drone. Ispace says it will investigate.
Communications between ispace and the rover ended when Hakuto-R had to travel the last 10 meters to the Moon. The device did this at a speed of about 25 kilometers per hour. Flight controllers would stare blankly at their monitors when they could hear nothing more from the plane. Takeshi Hakamada, the company’s president, said shortly afterwards that they “assumed we couldn’t complete the moon landing.”
Hakuto-R was launched last December for a test flight to Atlas Crater on the northeastern part of the near side of the Moon. In mid-March, the device entered lunar orbit, taking pictures of Earth along the way. The purpose of ispace is to enable commercial flights for other space agencies. Hakmada announced immediately on Tuesday that a second mission would take place next year.
In addition to the Japanese company, the United Arab Emirates also had an interest in a successful landing. A lunar module aboard Hakuto R came from that country. The United Arab Emirates already has a scientific satellite orbiting Mars and an astronaut from that country has already stepped aboard the International Space Station. With the lunar rover, the UAE wanted to expand its presence in space.
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