Private Japanese lander to make historic touchdown on Moon

Japanese lunar exploration company ispace aims to make a historic touchdown on the surface of the Moon on April 25.

Tokyo:  Japanese lunar exploration company ispace aims to make a historic touchdown on the surface of the Moon on April 25, the company said on Thursday.

So far no privately operated spacecraft has ever landed softly on the Moon, besides those operated by NASA, Russia and China.

“The earliest scheduled landing date for the HAKUTO-R Mission 1 Lunar Lander is set for April 25 at 16:40 UTC (10.10 p.m. IST),” the company said in a statement.

However, it noted that the date and time “are subject to change depending on operational conditions”.

“What we have accomplished so far is already a great achievement, and we are already applying lessons learned from this flight to our future missions. The stage is set. I am looking forward to witnessing this historic day, marking the beginning of a new era of commercial lunar missions,” Takeshi Hakamada, Founder and CEO of ispace, said in the statement.

The HAKUTO-R Mission 1 started its journey to the Moon’s orbit on March 22. After a week’s successful lunar orbital insertion manoeuvre, it also sent back an image of the sunlit section of the Moon, captured by its lander-mounted camera.

As of April 12, 2023, the Mission 1 lander is orbiting the Moon in an elliptical orbit with an altitude of about 100 km at the perilune (periapsis) and about 2,300 km at the apolune (apoapsis), the company said.

The lander is scheduled to perform multiple orbital control manoeuvers to reach 100 km circular orbit around the Moon to complete Success 8 of the Mission 1 Milestones.

The company noted that at approximately 15:40 UTC on April 25 (9.10 p.m. IST), the lander will begin the landing sequence from the 100 km altitude orbit. During the sequence, the lander will perform a braking burn, firing its main propulsion system to decelerate from orbit.

Utilising a series of pre-set commands, the lander will adjust its attitude and reduce velocity in order to make a soft landing on the lunar surface.

The process will take approximately one hour.

If Hakuto-R is able to achieve the feat, it will reportedly deploy a tiny rover named Rashid for the United Arab Emirates’ space agency.

But, if all does not go well, there are three alternative landing sites and depending on the site, the landing date (April 26, May 1, and May 3) may change, the company said.

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