The lander made a hard impact last month.
NASA says it's spotted the impact site of Japanese company ispace's lunar lander, which made a hard impact with the lunar surface last month.
Close-up images taken by the agency's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) show four large craters dotting the Moon's surface, likely the remains of ispace's HAKUTO-R Mission 1 lander.
The robotic spacecraft company was hoping to become the first to land and operate a privately-funded spacecraft on the lunar surface. But on April 25, mission control in Tokyo lost contact with the lander shortly after it adjusted its orbit to approach the lunar surface.
"We have not confirmed communication from the lander," a somber ispace founder Takeshi Hakamada said during a live stream at the time. "Our engineers will continue to investigate."
Just a day later, NASA's LRO flew by the impact site, acquiring ten images that cover a region of roughly 25 by 28 miles. The LRO team compared those images to ones taken of the same site before the impact and discovered an "unusual surface change near the nominal landing site," according to a blog post put together by LRO senior research engineer Emerson Speyerer.
Future observations could shed more light on the matter.
"This site will be analyzed more over the coming months as LROC has the opportunity to reimage the site under various lighting and viewing geometries," reads the post.
It wouldn't be the first time the LRO spotted the remains of landers that crashed on the lunar surface. In 2019, the orbiter discovered the crash site of Israeli nonprofit SpaceIL's Beresheet lander. Later that same year, the spacecraft spotted the debris field of India's Vikram lander.
Despite failing during its first attempt, ispace's leadership says it's not giving up.
"We will keep going." Hakamada told the crowd last month. "Never quit."
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