Japanese company ispace fears its lunar lander crashed into the moon on Tuesday.
The HAKUTO-R M1 lunar lander cut communications at the end of its landing attempt.
On board were a rover for the United Arab Emirates and a “transformable” robot for the Japanese space agency.
Tokyo-based company ispace made a valiant attempt to land a spacecraft on the lunar surface on Tuesday and fears it ended in a crash landing.
The HAKUTO-R M1 lunar lander appeared to descend to the moon as planned, positioning itself in space to claim the historic feat of the first private moon landing, until it was due to land. The control room appeared tense to a livestream of the operation, which stopped after about five minutes with no update.
When the live stream resumed, ispace CEO Takeshi Hakamada said his team communicated with the lander until the “end” of the landing attempt.
“However, we have now lost communication, so we have to assume we could not complete the lunar surface landing,” he said. “Our engineers will continue to investigate the situation and will update you later [with] further information.”
A similar loss of communications pointed to the crash of an Israeli lunar lander, called Beresheet, in 2019. That operation was led by the non-profit organization SpaceIL, in its bid to claim the first private moon landing.
Beresheet’s engine stalled during descent, so SpaceIL lost communication with the spacecraft, indicating that it had crashed on the lunar surface.
A few months later, India’s first attempt to land on the lunar surface met a similar fate.
“Of all the things we do in space, landing is one of the most challenging because time is so compressed,” Robert Braun, an engineer who has worked on the landing and descent teams for several years, previously told Insider. NASA missions to Mars. “There’s very little leeway to try something again if it didn’t happen as expected.”
That’s because the landers must successfully execute a series of complex commands with little margin for error, while having to contend with the moon’s wobbly gravity, uneven terrain and pesky dust.
The HAKUTO-R lander launched aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket on December 11 and entered orbit around the moon in late March.
The lander was carrying payloads for both companies and governments, including the small UAE-developed Rashid rover, which was the nation’s first mission to the lunar surface.
Also on board was a baseball-sized “transformable” robot from Japan’s space agency JAXA, according to SpaceNews.
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