If successful, ispace inc , a Japanese business, will make history by becoming the first private corporation to land a spacecraft on the moon with its Hakuto-R Mission 1 (M1) spacecraft early on Wednesday.
The M1 lander, which launched in December on a SpaceX rocket from Cape Canaveral, Florida, is scheduled to arrive on the surface of the moon about 1:40 a.m. Tuesday, Japan time (16:40 GMT).
If successful, it would be a welcome turnaround from the previous failures Japan has seen in the field of space technology, where it has high aspirations for developing a homegrown sector and plans to send astronauts to the moon by the late 2020s.
The loss of the new medium-lift H3 rocket by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) to forced manual destruction after it reached orbit last month was one of the heaviest blows. Less than five months had passed since the launch failure of JAXA’s solid-fuel Epsilon rocket in October.
According to Chief Technology Officer Ryo Ujiie, the 2.3-meter-tall (7.55-feet) M1 will start an hour-long landing phase from its current location in the moon’s orbit, around 100 kilometers (62 miles) above the surface and traveling at close to 6,000 kilometers per hour (3,700 mph).
Ujiie compared slowing the lander down to the right speed in order to avoid being pulled into the moon’s gravity to “stepping on the brakes on a running bicycle at the edge of a ski jumping hill.”
India and a private Israeli business have recently made unsuccessful attempts to soft-land a spaceship on the moon, leaving just the United States, the former Soviet Union, and China as survivors.
The M1 is to deploy a two-wheeled, baseball-sized rover created by JAXA, Japanese toymaker Tomy Co (7867.T), and Sony Group (6758.T), as well as the United Arab Emirates’ four-wheeled “Rashid” Rover, after arriving at the landing spot at the edge of Mare Frigoris, in the northern hemisphere of the moon.
Along with other items to be tested on the moon, the M1 is also carrying an experimental solid-state battery developed by NGK Spark Plug Co (5334.T).
The M1 is intended to launch its own rover on its second trip in 2024, and starting in 2025, it will collaborate with Draper to deliver NASA cargo to the moon with the goal of establishing a permanently manned lunar colony by 2040.
As investors assume that the lunar development and transportation business will fit in with Japan’s national strategy of defense and space development, shares of the Tokyo-based lunar transportation firm had a frenzied market debut on the Tokyo Stock Exchange this month.