‘High probability’ Japan spacecraft carrying UAE’s Rashid Rover crashed on moon

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Japan’s ispace said it there is a high probability that its Hakuto-R Mission 1 spacecraft, carrying the UAE’s Rashid rover, crashed during an attempted lunar landing.

On Wednesday, the company’s lunar lander lost contact just moments before touchdown. The spacecraft was on a 4 1/2-month mission and was aiming to be the first privately owned business to achieve a successful moon landing.

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More than six hours after communication ceased, the Tokyo company ispace finally confirmed what everyone had suspected, saying there was “a high probability” that the lander had slammed into the moon.

ispace had been on the verge of doing what only three countries have done: successfully land a spacecraft on the moon.

Contact was lost as the lander descended the final 33 feet (10 meters), traveling around 16 mph (25 kph.)

An official statement laer released said: “It has been determined that there is a high probability that the lander eventually made a hard landing on the moon’s surface.”

If all had gone well, ispace would have been the first private business to pull off a lunar landing. Hakamada vowed to try again, saying a second moonshot is already in the works for next year.

Only three governments have successfully touched down on the moon: Russia, the United States and China. An Israeli nonprofit tried to land on the moon in 2019, but its spacecraft was destroyed on impact.

“If space is hard, landing is harder,” tweeted Laurie Leshin, director of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. “I know from personal experience how awful this feels.”

Leshin worked on NASA’s Mars Polar lander that crashed on the red planet in 1999.

The 7-foot (2.3-meter) Japanese lander carried a mini lunar rover for the United Arab Emirates and a toylike robot from Japan designed to roll around in the moon dust.

There were also items from private customers on board.

The UAE’s Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre issued a statement on Twitter, saying that ispace is still investigating.

“Ispace has updated that they have lost communication with the Hakuto-R lander and have not been able to confirm a successful landing,” the space centre said.

“Their engineers are continuing to investigate the situation and will update once they finish investigation.”
Named Hakuto, Japanese for white rabbit, the spacecraft had targeted Atlas crater in the northeastern section of the moon’s near side, more than 50 miles (87 kilometers) across and just over 1 mile (2 kilometers) deep.

It took a long, roundabout route to the moon following its December liftoff, beaming back photos of Earth along the way. The lander entered lunar orbit on March 21.

Founded in 2010, ispace hopes to start turning a profit as a one-way taxi service to the moon for other businesses and organizations. The company has already raised $300 million to cover the first three missions, according to Hakamada.

“We will keep going, never quit lunar quest,” he said.

For this test flight, the two main experiments were government-sponsored: the UAE’s 22-pound (10-kilogram) rover Rashid, named after Dubai’s royal family, and the Japanese Space Agency’s orange-sized sphere designed to transform into a wheeled robot on the moon.

With a science satellite already around Mars and an astronaut aboard the International Space Station, the UAE was seeking to extend its presence to the moon.

With agencies

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