Tokyo-based ispace is set to be the first private company to land on the moon by December.
The mission originally had a planned launching date of November 30, but the date has been pushed back.
Was this Japan’s First Attempt?
This isn’t Japan’s first attempt at a lunar mission. On November 16, JAXA’s unmanned lunar probe, called “OMOTENASHI,” was scheduled to be the first Japanese spacecraft to touch down on the moon.
It was unable to communicate effectively with its crew due to communication issues.
If ispace’s mission proves successful it will have achieved two firsts
- The first private company ever to land on the moon
- Japan’s first lunar landing
A New and Improved Mission
The mission is different than previous missions because it takes advantage of gravity instead of traveling directly toward the lunar surface.
It will first go beyond the orbit of the lunar surface (about 1.5 billion kilometers or 932 thousand million meters away from the planet), then use the gravitational pull of the planet, the Sun, and the Lunar Surface to alter its trajectory.
When Will It Land?
It will only reach the moon by the end of April 2028. These dates may be subject to change depending on the launch date. The strange path the spacecraft will take is to save energy.
Fuel is extremely important for space missions. Even saving the smallest amounts can go a long way toward making sure a mission succeeds.
With this method, ispace will be able to fly using the gravity of the earth and the sun without any fuel at all, which would result in a fuel total that’s less than half of that used by conventional methods.
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A Japanese company successfully sent a manned spacecraft into orbit carrying a UAE government-sponsored robotic landing craft and a small Japanese rover on board.
It will take nearly 5 months for the lander to reach the lunar surface.
The spaceflight startup ispace has been designing its craft to be powered by less fuel than most rockets, so it’s taking an energy-efficient route to the lunar orbit.
It plans to fly 1 million nautical miles (1.6 million km) from Earth before loopping back and intersecting with Luna by the end of April, according to CEO Peter Beckman.
The ispace lander will aim for 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. With its four legs extended, the lander is more than 7 feet (2.3 meters) tall.
With a space probe already circling Mars, the United Arab Emirates wants to explore the lunar landscape, too. It plans to send its own rover there weighing less than 20 kg, which will operate on the lunar soil for about 10 days.
What Is the Lander Carrying?
Furthermore, the lander is also bringing an orange-sized ball from Japan’s space agency that will turn into a wheeled robot once it lands on the moon.
There were also several new products at the show including a solid-‐ion lithium-‐batteries made by a Japanese-‐owned spark plug manufacturer; a flight computer with AI technology developed by a Canadian firm; and 360-‐degree cameras from a Toronto firm.
The ispace mission was named after an old legend from Japan where a white bunny lives on the moon. Another lunar lander is scheduled to be launched in 2024, followed by another one in 2025.
Founded in 2010 and one of the finalist teams in the Google Lunar X PRIZE competition, ispace has not yet successfully landed its lunar roving vehicle on the moon.
Yet another final contestant, an Israeli non-profit called SpaceIL, reached the moon in 2019. However, instead of landing softly, the spacecraft crashed onto the moon and was destroyed by the impact.
Only Russia, the United States, and China have successfully landed humans on the lunar surface. The first landing was made by the former Soviet Union in 1966. Since then, twelve men from the United States have walked on the lunar surface.
It was exciting when we launched our first satellite into orbit back in 2000. But now it’s exciting because we’re launching satellites for commercial purposes.
“This is the dawn of the lunar economy,”
Hakamada noted in the SpaceX launch webcast
“Let’s go to the moon.”
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