TOKYO, April 25 (Reuters) – Japan’s ISpace Inc ( 9348.T ) said the first private moon landing attempt failed after the Hakuto-R Mission 1 (M1) lander unexpectedly accelerated and crashed. Lunar surface.
As the lander approached the moon, its altimeter system may have miscalculated the distance to the surface, the startup said.
“It ran out of fuel to fire its thrusters and went into a free fall towards the surface,” Chief Technology Officer Ryo Uji told a news conference on Wednesday.
It was the second setback for commercial space development in a week after SpaceX’s Starship rocket spectacularly exploded minutes after lifting off from its launch pad.
A private company has yet to succeed in landing on the moon. The United States, the former Soviet Union and China are the only countries to have soft-landed spacecraft on the moon, with India and a private Israeli company also failing in recent years.
IceSpace, which delivers payloads such as rovers to the moon and sells related data, listed on the Tokyo Stock Exchange just two weeks ago, with a frenzy of excitement surrounding its prospects sending its shares up sevenfold.
But sell orders surged on Wednesday due to disappointment. After not trading for the day, the stock fell 20%.
Japan’s top government spokesman, Hirokazu Matsuno, said that while it was disappointing that the mission did not succeed, the country wanted to “continue” to venture into space because its efforts were significant for the development of the domestic space industry.
Japan, which has set a goal of sending Japanese astronauts to the moon by the late 2020s, has experienced some setbacks recently. The National Space Agency had to destroy its new medium-lift H3 rocket after it reached space last month after its second stage engine failed to ignite. Its solid-fuel Epsilon rocket also failed after launch in October.
Brakes on a ski slope
The M1 lander appeared to touch down autonomously at 1:40 a.m. Japan time (1640 GMT Tuesday), four months after it was launched on a SpaceX rocket from Cape Canaveral, Florida. Close to 90 meters (295 feet) from the lunar surface.
By the time of the expected touchdown, mission control had lost contact with the lander and engineers were anxiously watching the live stream as they waited for signal confirmation of its fate that never came.
The lander completed eight of 10 mission objectives in space, which will provide valuable data for the next landing attempt in 2024, Chief Executive Takeshi Hakamada said.
About an hour before scheduled touchdown, the 2.3-meter-tall M1 began its descent phase, gradually tightening its orbit from 100 km (62 mi) to about 25 km above the surface, traveling at nearly 6,000 km/hour (3,700 mph). )
At such speeds, Ujiye said, slowing the lander to the right speed against the moon’s gravity would be like pressing the brakes on a bicycle at the edge of a ski-jumping slope.
It would have used a two-wheeled, baseball-sized rover made by Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, Tomei Co Ltd ( 7867.T ) and aimed at a landing site on the edge of Mare Frigoris in the moon’s northern hemisphere. Sony Group Corp (6758.T). It also planned to send a four-wheeled rover called Rashid from the United Arab Emirates.
The lander carried an experimental solid-state battery made by Niterra Co Ltd ( 5334.T ) among other devices to evaluate their performance on the moon.
The work was insured by Mitsui Sumitomo Insurance Co, a unit of MS&AD Insurance Group ( 8725.T ), and Ispace said it may receive some indemnification.
Report by Kantaro Komiya; Editing by Sang-Ron Kim and Stephen Coates
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