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Private Japanese Moon Lander Crashed after Being Confused by a Crater 

iSpace stressed that the mission successfully completed eight of its nine mission milestones

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Aditya Saikrishna
Aditya Saikrishna
I am 21 years old and an avid Motorsports enthusiast.

JAPAN: The highly anticipated moon landing attempt by the private Japanese moon lander Hakuto-R failed as the spacecraft crashed due to its onboard altitude sensor misinterpreting the rim of a lunar crater.

Despite completing eight out of nine mission milestones, the lander’s unfortunate landing became a setback for the Tokyo-based company iSpace.

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The spacecraft’s onboard computer, relying on the altitude sensor, erroneously determined that its altitude measurement was incorrect when confronted with the unexpected terrain feature.

Consequently, it decided to rely on a calculated altitude based on the mission’s expected progress, leading to a fatal miscalculation. On April 25, the lander crashed, believing it was at a lower distance from the lunar surface than it was.

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In a statement released on May 26, iSpace explained that the lander estimated its altitude to be zero or on the lunar surface. However, it later determined its height to be approximately 5 kilometres [3.1 miles] above the lunar surface.

As the lander reached the scheduled landing time, it continued descending at a low speed until its propulsion system ran out of fuel. The spacecraft free-fell to the moon’s surface with no controlled descent possible.

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iSpace acknowledged that the failure was partially due to insufficient consideration of the terrain topography around the landing site. The mission had experienced a landing site change several months before liftoff, which contributed to the oversight.

The intended landing site was the floor of the 54-mile-wide Atlas Crater in the Mare Frigoris region on the moon’s near side. NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter recently located the wreckage near the original target.

Had the landing been successful, Hakuto-R would have become the first privately operated moon lander to achieve a lunar landing. Only NASA, China, and Russia have soft-landed spacecraft on the moon’s surface.

Despite the setback, iSpace highlighted that the mission accomplished eight out of nine milestones without any issues, with the failure occurring during the final stages of the powered descent.

The company reassured that the incident would not affect the planned launches of its second and third missions, scheduled for 2024 and 2025, respectively.

Fortunately, since a software issue caused the mission failure, there is no need for a hardware redesign for the upcoming missions.

Takeshi Hakamada, Founder and CEO of iSpace, explains that the team identified the issue during the landing and has a clear picture of how to improve their future missions.

While the crash of Hakuto-R is undoubtedly a setback, it highlights the challenging nature of space exploration and the continuous learning process in pushing the boundaries of scientific achievement.

As iSpace looks ahead to future missions, they are determined to apply the lessons learned from this incident to ensure the success of their upcoming lunar endeavours.

Also Read: Japan Coast Hit by 6.2 Magnitude Earthquake, No Alert of Tsunami 


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