SpaceX is preparing to launch the world’s first private lunar lander: ScienceAlert
SpaceX will launch the first private – and Japanese – lander on Wednesday the moon.
A Falcon 9 rocket does scheduled to explode at 3:39 a.m. (0839 GMT) from Cape Canaveral, Florida, with a reserve date on Thursday.
So far, only the United States, Russia and China have managed to put a robot on the lunar surface.
The mission, by Japanese company ispace, is the first of a program called Hakuto-R.
According to a company statement, the lander would land on the visible side of the moon, in the Atlas crater, around April 2023.
Measuring just over 2 by 2.5 meters (6.5 by 8 feet), it carries a 10-kilogram rover named Rashid, built by the United Arab Emirates.
The oil-rich country is a newcomer to the space race, but has recent successes including one Mars probe in 2020. If successful, Rashid will be the Arab world’s first lunar mission.
“We’ve accomplished so much in the six short years since we first started conceptualizing this project in 2016,” said ispace CEO Takeshi Hakamada.
Hakuto was one of five finalists in the international Google Lunar XPrize competition, a challenge to land a rover on the moon before the 2018 deadline, which ended without a winner. But some projects are still running.
Another finalist, from the Israeli organization SpaceIL, failed in April 2019 to become the first privately funded mission to accomplish this feat, after crashing into the surface while attempting to land.
ispace, which has only 200 employees, says it “aims to expand the sphere of human life into space and create a sustainable world by providing high-frequency, low-cost transportation services to the moon.”
Future missions will contribute to NASA’s Artemis program. Artemis-1, an unmanned test flight to the moon, is currently underway.
The US space agency wants to develop the lunar economy in the coming years by building a space station in orbit around the moon and a base on the surface.
It has awarded contracts to several companies to develop landers to carry science experiments to the surface.
Among them, US companies Astrobotic and Intuitive Machines should launch in 2023, and could, according to reports, arrive at their destination earlier than ispace by taking a more direct route.
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