Flight controllers lost contact with the spacecraft just before the planned landing.
A Japanese company lost contact with its spacecraft shortly before landing on the moon, saying the mission apparently failed.
“We lost contact, so we have to assume we can’t do a landing on the lunar surface,” ispace CEO Takeshi Hakamada said on a company livestream Tuesday, as mission control engineers in Tokyo continued to try to reconnect with the lunar surface. lander.
A real-time animation of the lander’s telemetry showed that the M1 lander appeared to touch down around 12:40 pm ET (16:40 GMT on Tuesday), nearly 90 meters (295 feet) from the lunar surface.
Communications were lost as the lander descended the final 10 meters (33 feet) at a speed of about 25 kilometers per hour (16 mph). The flight controllers in Tokyo stared blankly at the screen as minutes passed without any news from the lander, which was presumed to have crashed.
Launched in December on a SpaceX rocket from Cape Canaveral, Florida, USA, the spacecraft has completed several mission objectives and is preparing to land.
If it lands, the company will be the first private enterprise to do so.
Only three governments have managed to land on the moon: Russia, the United States, and China. An Israeli nonprofit attempted to land on the moon in 2019, but its spacecraft was destroyed on impact.
The 2.3-meter (7-foot) Japanese lander carried a tiny lunar rover for the United Arab Emirates and a toy robot from Japan designed to roll in lunar dust. Also on board are items from private clients.
The spacecraft, named Hakuto (Japanese for white rabbit), is targeting the Atlas Crater on the northeast near side of the Moon, which is more than 87 kilometers (54 miles) in diameter and just over 2 kilometers deep ( 1 mile).
After blasting off in December, the White Rabbit followed a long and circuitous route to the moon, beaming back photos of Earth along the way.
ispace, which has just 200 employees, says it “aims to extend the scope of human life into space and create a sustainable world by providing high-frequency, low-cost transportation services to the moon.”
Ispace believes the Moon will support 1,000 people by 2040, with another 10,000 visiting each year.
It is planning a second mission, tentatively scheduled for next year, that will include landing on the moon and deploying its own rover.