Japan's ispace loses contact with lunar spacecraft carrying UAE's Rashid rover

Company investigating and ‘cannot confirm’ safe landing on the Moon

Powered by automated translation

Japan's ispace said it is investigating after losing contact with its Hakuto-R Mission 1 spacecraft during an attempted lunar landing.

The spacecraft, carrying the UAE's Rashid rover, was expected to land on the Moon at about 8.40pm.

A tense mission control in Tokyo waited for more than 30 minutes to secure communications with the spacecraft.

“At this moment, we have not been able to confirm successful landing on the lunar surface,” ispace chief executive Takeshi Hakamada said in a live stream.

Our engineers and mission control centre continue to investigate the current status of the lander
Takeshi Hakamada, ispace chief executive

“Our engineers and mission control centre continue to investigate the current status of the lander.

“We have not been to confirm communication with the lander. We established communication until the end of the landing, however, now we lost communication.

“We have to assume that we could not complete the landing on the lunar surface.”

The space exploration company later issued a statement saying it was still working to confirm the status of its craft.

"Ispace engineers and mission operations specialists in the mission control centre are currently working to confirm the current status of the lander," the ispace statement said.

"Further information on the status of the lander will be announced as it becomes available."

The Hakuto-R Mission 1 spacecraft attempted an intricate Moon landing sequence that included reducing speed and altitude significantly in minutes.

The Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre issued a statement on Twitter, saying that ispace is still investigating.

"Ispace has updated that they have lost communication with the Hakuto-R lander and have not been able to confirm a successful landing," the space centre said.

"Their engineers are continuing to investigate the situation and will update once they finish investigation."

A core team of 11 engineers at the space centre had been working on the Rashid rover since 2017, hoping that the UAE would become the first Arab nation to place a spacecraft on the surface of another celestial body.

Ispace was also expecting to make history by becoming the first company to achieve a private mission to the lunar surface.

Lunar landings are difficult and have a 50 per cent success rate, with only the US, the Soviet Union and China achieving soft landings on the surface.

In 2019, India and Israel had spacecraft that crash-landed on the Moon.

Lunar landings are difficult because the Moon has no atmosphere, which means engineers cannot use parachutes to land spacecraft as they do on Mars and Earth.

Instead, complex manoeuvres are required to help the spacecraft decelerate so it touches down safely.

There are also mascons, or mass concentrations, on the Moon's surface, which create gravity anomalies and can cause potential danger for a spacecraft attempting a landing.


Sultan Al Neyadi's life on the International Space Station - in pictures

Updated: April 26, 2023, 6:07 AM