On Tuesday, April 25, the private Japanese lunar lander Hakuto-R, developed by ispace, was set to attempt a historic landing on the moon. If successful, Japan would have become the fourth country to achieve a lunar landing after the United States, Russia, and China. However, just moments before the anticipated touchdown, ispace announced that it had lost contact with the lander, suggesting that Hakuto-R had likely crashed.
Launched in December 2022, the Hakuto-R lander aimed to complete a complex mission comprised of 10 milestones. While telemetry data indicated that mission controllers remained in contact with the lander during its descent, communication ceased as it approached the lunar surface at a rapidly increasing descent rate. Engineers were monitoring the lander’s fuel levels during the process, but the sudden loss of contact suggests that Hakuto-R ultimately crashed.
The mission, deemed completed by ispace, carried several payloads, including a 10 kg rover from the United Arab Emirates named Rashid. Launched by SpaceX’s Falcon 9, the rocket also carried NASA’s Lunar Flashlight lunar probe.
Ispace is currently working on another mission, M2, slated for launch in late 2024. The M2 lander will resemble Hakuto-R in design and will carry several payloads, including a small rover to collect a relith sample for transfer to NASA. Ispace’s European subsidiary was awarded the 2020 contract for this task.
In 2025, ispace plans to launch another mission as part of NASA’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services program, an initiative utilizing private landers to deliver the agency’s scientific equipment to the moon. Beyond 2025, the company intends to launch two landers annually, carrying various payloads to the lunar surface. Ispace’s CEO and founder, Takeshi Hakamada, envisions establishing an economically viable, sustainable ecosystem in space.