Moon has fascinated us humans since almost the dawn of humanity. It has been our wish to get as close to our natural satellite as we can. Since the advancement of technology, ‘RACE TO THE MOON’ has determined the nation’s technological prowess. The USA was the first country to successfully land its satellite, LUNA 1, on the Moon in 1959. That event created a frenzy of such magnitude that other nations also escalated their attempts to launch their satellites to the Moon. Soon countries like India, China, and South Korea successfully followed USA’s footsteps. This year, Japan attempted to join the list.
Japan’s first private moon mission, Hakuto R, was launched on 11th December 2022. The lander was carrying payloads from NASA, the Emirates Lunar Mission rover Rashid, and Tomy’s SORA-Q Transferable Lunar robot, which are also vital for other projects. In addition, the consignment also has important cargo, a music disk featuring the song SORATO by the rock band Sakanaction.
The main mission was to attempt landing on Atlas crater in the Mare Frigon’s region of the Moon. Hakuto-R Mission 1 has travelled 1,400,000 kilometres in 5 months and established a standing record for the longest distance travelled by any privately funded spacecraft. It was using a slower path to approach the Moon to conserve fuel. On 15th April, the onboard camera attached to the Lander clicked a photo of the surface of the Moon when it was around 100 kilometres above its surface.
Five days later, the camera sent its last photo of Earthrise around the time of the lunar eclipse. The Lander was set to land on 25th April. Unfortunately, around 4:40 pm, all contacts with Lander were suddenly cut off while it was passing through the Moon’s far side. The officials at iSpace tried everything to re-establish the communication but, after 6 hours, were forced to admit that the Lander might have been lost or destroyed just minutes before the final touchdown.
Many speculations about what would have happened during the Lander`s final descent to the lunar surface. iSpace speculated that as the Lander approached the Moon, its altitude measuring equipment may have misjudged the distance to the surface, quoting, “Landing on the lunar surface is a well-choreographed dance that relies on several factors. These factors include primarily slowing down the descent, which the lander seems unable to do.”
Another statement by the officials determined that there is a high possibility that Lander must have made a tough landing on the surface of the Moon and, thereby, would have been damaged. Yet another reason may have stemmed from the lack of communication. Some stations have deep space networks worldwide on which the engineers rely to direct their missions to the Moon. Losing contact would mean that any spacecraft would go blind through endless darkness. Whatever the reason, it is confirmed that with the loss of this Lander, Japan’s first private mission, Hakuto, has faced a significant setback, from which it would take another decade or 2 to realize Japan`s dream of landing a satellite on the Moon.