"We have to assume we could not complete the landing on the lunar surface."
Getting into space is hard — but landing on the Moon is even harder.
Japanese lunar lander Hakuto-R Mission 1, developed by private space company ispace, attempted to touch down on the surface of the Moon today. But the planned landing time came and went, with mission control failing to reestablish communications.
"We have not confirmed communication from the lander," a somber ispace founder Takeshi Hakamada said during a live stream. "Our engineers will continue to investigate."
"We have to assume we could not complete the landing on the lunar surface," he added. "We will keep going. Never quit."
HAKUTO-R Mission 1 statement. Nothing is confirmed, but it does not look good. pic.twitter.com/fnTsbPNsmh
— Chris Bergin - NSF (@NASASpaceflight) April 25, 2023
The lander was slated to become the first privately funded spacecraft to successfully land on the Moon. While ispace has yet to confirm the state of its lander, the company will likely join the likes of India and Israel in making a harder-than-expected landing.
During its entirely autonomous descent, the Mission 1 lander progressively slowed its velocity while closing in on the lunar surface as scientists anxiously watched on at ispace's HQ in Tokyo.
The team watched on for several tense minutes following the moment of the planned landing, while teams attempted to reestablish communication with the lander. At one point, ispace cut the feed to prerecorded PR videos to ease the tension.
The lander was launched by a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket on December 11, and spent the next couple of months traveling to the Moon. It entered lunar orbit on April 12.
It even took stunning close-up video captures of the lunar surface below in the days leading up to its landing attempt.
It's an unfortunate development that highlights just how difficult it is to travel to the Moon, let alone land on its surface. So far only the US, the former Soviet Union, and China have made successful lunar landings.
Fortunately, ispace already has its second and third mission to the Moon lined up and is gearing up to try again.
More on the landing: A Private Spacecraft Will Attempt to Land on the Moon Tomorrow