(Tokyo) The Japanese company ispace will attempt on Wednesday to become the first private company to land a robot on the Moon.
The Hakuto-R program lander, which has so far been in orbit some 100 kilometers above the Moon, must already have begun its descent towards the lunar surface, said the commentator of the live video of the company.
The lander is temporarily behind the dark side of the Moon, he said, without the possibility of communicating with it for several tens of minutes.
It must then reappear, slow its course and adjust its altitude, in order to perform a “soft landing” at around 12:40 p.m. (Eastern Time) on Tuesday, a sequence performed entirely automatically.
The success of the mission, however, is far from guaranteed. In April 2019, the Israeli organization SpaceIL saw its probe crash into the surface of the Moon.
“What we have accomplished so far is already a great achievement, and we are already applying the lessons learned from this flight to our future missions,” ispace CEO and Founder Takeshi Hakamada said earlier this month.
“I look forward to witnessing this historic day, which marks the beginning of a new era of commercial lunar missions. »
Measuring 2 by 2.5 meters, the lander has been orbiting the moon since last month, after being launched in December from the US base at Cape Canaveral, Florida, aboard a SpaceX rocket.
So far, only the United States, Russia and China have managed to land robots on the Moon, located about 400,000 km from Earth.
India had also tried in 2019 to land a probe, named Vikram, but it crashed.
The ispace lander carries several lunar vehicles, including a miniature Japanese model developed by the Japanese Space Agency in collaboration with toymaker Takara Tomy.
Another lunar vehicle (“rover”) built by the United Arab Emirates is also on board.
This Gulf country, a newcomer to the space race, sent an orbital probe to Mars in 2021. If its small 10-kilo vehicle, named Rashid, succeeds in being deployed, it will carry out the first lunar mission in the Arab world. .
The Japanese firm’s Hakuto (“white rabbit” in Japanese) project was one of five finalists in the international Google Lunar XPrize competition, which ended without a winner, with no company having successfully landed a robot before the date set (2018).
Two other companies, American companies Astrobotic and Intuitive Machines, are due to take off later this year in an attempt to land on the Moon.
These missions are carried out in partnership with NASA, which intends to develop the lunar economy and has commissioned private companies to transport equipment and scientific experiments to the Moon.
The American space agency plans, with its Artemis program, to re-land astronauts on the lunar surface in the coming years, to establish a base there, and to build a space station in orbit around the Moon.
Japan and the United States announced last year that they would cooperate to send a Japanese astronaut to the moon by the end of the decade.