A commercial lunar rover, developed by private Japanese company ispace in association with the United Arab Emirates, appears to have failed to make a soft landing on the moon and is presumed to have crash-landed on the moon’s surface. The apparent conclusion of the mission comes after a stay of four months and 239,000 miles, and if successful, it could have heralded a new era of lunar exploration.
“We have to assume that we were unable to complete the moon landing on the lunar surface,” ispace CEO Takeshi Hakamada said during the company’s live broadcast.
Launched aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket on December 11, ispace’s Hakuto-R lander attempted to make a soft landing (i.e., not crash) inside Atlas crater located on the southeastern edge of the moon’s Mare Frigoris , or the “Sea of Cold” just before 1 pm EST. The ispace team was subsequently unable to establish communication with the lander and, as of this writing, still cannot.
“Recognizing the possibility of an anomaly during the mission, the results will be weighed and evaluated against the criteria and incorporated into future missions already in development between now and 2025,” the company said in an announcement shortly after its launch on December 11 aboard SpaceX. Falcon 9.
Had it been a success, the United Arab Emirates’ 22-pound Rashid rover would have deployed for a 14-day daytime lunar survey of the area. According to the European Space Agency, which helped design the rover’s wheels and will provide landing communications for ispace, the rover would have documented its journey through two high-resolution cameras along with a microscopic and thermal imaging camera. Rashid also boasted of a “Langmuir probe” meant to “sample the plasma environment that prevails just above the lunar surface,” according to ESA.
[Related: ispace’s private lander might be the first to touch down on the moon.]
As CNN He points out, only the US, China, and the former Soviet Union have successfully achieved a controlled moon landing. The United States remains the only nation to have placed humans on the lunar surface. In 2019, the Israeli private space company SpaceIL attempted what would have been the first commercial soft landing on the moon with its Beresheet robotic lander. Beresheet’s engine failed during its descent approximately four miles onto the lunar surface.
The expected success of ispace’s Hakuto-R could have presented literal and figurative uncharted territory for both Earth nations and their moon. Along with the imminent return of NASA astronauts through the Artemis program ahead of the hope of a permanent lunar base, many space law experts are rushing to establish a new set of regulations to protect the lunar environment as well as historic spaces. as the landing site of Apollo 11.