Japanese Ispace Lander launches to the Moon with a UAE Rover
As a remnant of its Lunar X Prize heritage, it also carries a panel inscribed with the names of people who have provided crowdfunding support and a music disc featuring a song performed by Japanese rock band Sakanaction.
The Japanese company’s lander isn’t the only passenger on Sunday’s flight. A secondary payload on the Falcon 9 is a small NASA mission, Lunar Flashlight, which is to enter an elliptical orbit around the moon and use an infrared laser to probe the deep, dark craters in the moon’s polar regions.
Why is it taking so long for Ispace to get to the moon?
Like some other recent lunar missions, M1 is making a circuitous, low-power trip to the moon and won’t land in the Atlas crater in the moon’s northern hemisphere until late April. The fuel-efficient orbit allows the mission to pack more payload and carry less fuel.
What are the other recent visitors to the moon?
As part of the Artemis I mission, NASA’s Orion spacecraft traveled to the moon and then orbited the moon. It returned to Earth later on Sunday, making a splash in the Pacific Ocean.
A small NASA-funded mission called CAPSTONE also recently arrived to explore orbit where NASA plans to build a lunar outpost where astronauts will stop on their way to the moon.
And as long as it hasn’t arrived yet, the moon will have a third new visitor next month. Danuri, a South Korean space probewas launched in August and will enter lunar orbit on December 16. The spacecraft will help develop technology for future Korean missions, and it also carries scientific instruments to study the moon’s chemical composition and magnetic field.
Do other companies try what Ispace does?
Called a NASA program Commercial Lunar Payload Services or CLPS, has attempted to send experiments to the surface to the moon. The first two missions, from Houston-based Intuitive Machines and Pittsburgh-based Astrobotic Technology, are scheduled to launch next year after significant delays. Intuitive Machines’ lander, which could launch as early as March, could even beat Ispace to the moon as it follows a fast six-day trajectory.
Not being a US company, Ispace could not directly participate in the NASA program. However, it is part of a team led by Draper Technologies of Cambridge, Massachusetts, that won a CLPS mission from NASA. That mission should be launched in 2025.
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