SpaceX launches Japanese lander, NASA mapper to moon

The lander blew up from Cape Canaveral on Sunday on a SpaceX rocket.

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. – A Tokyo company aimed for the moon with its own lander on Sunday, blasting atop a SpaceX rocket with the United Arab Emirates’ first lunar rover and a robot like it like a toy from Japan designed to roll on it in the gray dust.

It will take nearly five months for the lander and its experiments to reach the moon.

The company ispace has designed its ships to use minimal fuel to save money and have more room for cargo. So it is moving slowly, with little energy to the moon, flying 1 million miles from Earth before turning around and intersecting with the moon at the end of April.

In contrast, NASA’s Orion crew with test dummies took five days to reach the moon last month. The mission to fly over the moon ended on Sunday with a collision in the Pacific Ocean.

The ispace lander will target the Atlas crater on the northeastern part of the moon’s near side, which is more than 50 miles across and just over a mile deep. With its four legs extended, the lander is over 7 feet tall.

With a science satellite already around Mars, the UAE also wants to explore the moon. Its rover, named Rashid after the royal family of Dubai, weighs just 22 pounds and will stay on the surface for about 10 days, like everything else on the mission.

Additionally, the lander is carrying a Japan Space Agency orange-sized sphere that will transform into a wheeled robot on the moon. Also flying: a solid-state battery from a spark plug company based in Japan; an Ottawa, Ontario company’s flying computer that has artificial intelligence to identify geological features seen by the UAE’s autonomous vehicles; and a 360-degree camera from a company in the Toronto area.

The rocket hitch is a small NASA laser experiment that is currently flying to the moon on its own to hunt for ice in the permanently obscured craters at the lunar south pole.

The space mission is called Hakuto, Japanese for white rabbit. In Asian folklore, a white rabbit is said to live on the moon. The private company’s second moon landing is scheduled for 2024 and a third for 2025.

Founded in 2010, ispace was one of the finalists in the Google Lunar XPRIZE contest claiming a successful moon landing in 2018. The ispace-built lunar rover has never been. launched.

Another finalist, an Israeli nonprofit called SpaceIL, made it to the moon in 2019. But instead of a gentle landing, the Beresheet spacecraft crashed into the moon and was destroyed. .

With a launch Sunday morning from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, ispace is now on track to become one of the first private entities to attempt a moon landing. Although it won’t launch until early next year, lunar landers built by Pittsburgh’s Astrobotic Technology and Houston’s Instrumentation Instrument could beat ispace to the moon thanks to shorter journey times.

Only Russia, the US, and China have achieved so-called “soft landings” on the moon, starting with the former Soviet Union’s Luna 9 spacecraft in 1966. And only the US has brought astronauts to the surface. moon: 12 people in six landings.

Sunday marks the 50th anniversary of the last moon landing by astronauts, by Eugene Cernan and Harrison Schmitt of Apollo 17 on December 11, 1972.

ispace founder and CEO Takeshi Hakamada, who was no longer alive at the time, said all of NASA’s Apollo moon photos were “about the excitement of technology”. Now, “it’s the excitement of business.”

“This is the dawn of the lunar economy,” Hakamada noted in the SpaceX launch webcast. “Let’s go to the moon.”

The takeoff should have happened two weeks ago, but was delayed by SpaceX for further testing of the rocket.

Eight minutes after launch, the recycled first-stage booster landed back at Cape Canaveral under a near-full moon, two sonic booms reverberating through the night. SpaceX launches Japanese lander, NASA mapper to moon

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