Japanese Company’s Lander Rockets Toward Moon With UAE Rover

A Tokyo company aimed its own private lander for the moon on Sunday, lifting off on a SpaceX rocket carrying the United Arab Emirates’ first lunar rover and a toy robot from Japan that is designed to roll on the surface of the moon. Moon.

The lander and its experiments will take almost five months to reach the Moon.

The ispace company designed its ship to use a minimum of fuel to save money and leave more space for cargo. So, it’s taking a slow, low-energy path to the moon, flying 1 million miles (1.6 million kilometers) from Earth before returning and intersecting with the moon in late April.

By contrast, NASA’s Orion crew capsule with test dummies took five days to reach the moon last month. The lunar flyby mission ended Sunday with a thrilling splashdown in the Pacific.

The ispace lander will target Atlas crater in the northeastern section of the moon’s near side, more than 50 miles (87 kilometers) wide and just over 1 mile (2 kilometers) deep. With its four legs extended, the lander stands over 7 feet (2.3 meters) tall.

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With a scientific satellite already circling Mars, the United Arab Emirates wants to explore the moon as well. His rover, named Rashid after Dubai’s royal family, weighs just 22 pounds (10 kilograms) and will operate on the surface for about 10 days, like everything else on the mission.

Emirates project manager Hamad AlMarzooqi said landing on an unexplored part of the moon will provide “novel and highly valuable” scientific data. In addition, the lunar surface is “an ideal platform” to test new technologies that can be used for eventual human expeditions to Mars.

Then there is national pride: the rover represents “a pioneering national effort in the space sector and a historic moment that, if successful, will be the first Emirati and Arab mission to land on the surface of the moon,” it said in a statement. after. take off.

Additionally, the lander carries an orange-sized sphere from the Japanese Space Agency that will transform into a wheeled robot on the moon. Also flying: a solid-state battery from a Japan-based spark plug company; a flight computer from the Ottawa, Ontario company, with artificial intelligence to identify geological features seen by the UAE rover; and 360-degree cameras from a Toronto-area company.

Riding the rocket was a small NASA laser experiment that is now heading to the moon on its own to search for ice in the permanently shadowed craters of the lunar south pole.

The space mission is called Hakuto, Japanese for white rabbit. In Asian folklore, a white rabbit is said to live on the moon. A second moon landing by the private company is scheduled for 2024 and a third in 2025.

Founded in 2010, ispace was among the finalists in the Google Lunar XPRIZE competition that called for a successful moon landing by 2018. The ispace-built lunar rover was never launched.

Another finalist, an Israeli nonprofit organization called SpaceIL, managed to reach the moon in 2019. But instead of landing softly, the Beresheet spacecraft crashed into the moon and was destroyed.

With the pre-dawn launch Sunday from the Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, ispace is now on track to become one of the first private entities to attempt a moon landing. Although they won’t launch until early next year, lunar landers built by Pittsburgh’s Astrobotic Technology and Houston’s Intuitive Machines may be able to get to the moon before ispace thanks to shorter cruise times.

Only Russia, the United States and China have achieved so-called “soft landings” on the Moon, beginning with the former Soviet Union’s Luna 9 in 1966. And only the United States has put astronauts on the lunar surface: 12 men in six landings. .

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Sunday marked the 50th anniversary of the last lunar landing by Apollo 17 astronauts Eugene Cernan and Harrison Schmitt on December 11, 1972.

NASA’s Apollo moonshots were all about “the excitement of technology,” said ispace founder and CEO Hakamada Takeshi, who was not alive at the time. Now, “it is the emotion of the business”.

“This is the beginning of the lunar economy,” Hakamada noted on the SpaceX launch webcast. “Go to the moon”.

Liftoff should have happened two weeks ago, but SpaceX delayed it to perform additional checks on the rocket.

Eight minutes after launch, the recycled propellant from the first stage touched down at Cape Canaveral under a nearly full moon, double sonic booms echoing through the night.

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