Japan’s ispace spacecraft descends toward Moon

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A model of the lander in HAKUTO-R lunar exploration program by “ispace” is pictured at a venue to monitor its landing on the Moon, in Tokyo, Japan on April 26, 2023.

A model of the lander in HAKUTO-R lunar exploration program by “ispace” is pictured at a venue to monitor its landing on the Moon, in Tokyo, Japan on April 26, 2023.
| Photo Credit: Reuters

Japanese start-up ispace’s Hakuto-R lunar lander began descending toward the surface of the Moon, company officials said.

The lander was on the backside of the Moon at about 1600 GMT Tuesday and was expected to land and begin sending signals back to Earth within 30 minutes, the company said during a live update of the operation.

“Our lander is now on the Moon’s far side and heading for its designated landing area. We expect to reestablish communication in approximately 30 minutes,” an official said.

If successful, ispace will become the first private firm to place a working spacecraft on the Moon.

The lander, standing just over two metres tall and weighing 340 kilogrammes, has been in lunar orbit since last month.

It was launched from Earth on December 11 on one of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rockets.

So far only the United States, Russia and China have managed to put a robot on the lunar surface, all through government-sponsored programmes.

In April 2019, Israeli organisation SpaceIL watched their lander crash into the Moon’s surface.

India also attempted to land a spacecraft on the Moon in 2019, but it crashed.

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