It is not a device designed by Elon Musk’s firm, but by the Japanese company iSpace.
On Thursday, December 1, SpaceX will conduct a major launch. A Falcon 9 launcher will take off from the US Space Force base at Cape Canaveral, with a rather special cargo on board: a lander intended to be the first Japanese vehicle, but above all the first private vehicle to land on our satellite. .
So it will be an event of considerable importance. Because if this moon landing goes as planned, Japan will join a very closed circle. Only so far Three countries have already achieved this technological feat. Russia (or rather the Soviet Union) got the ball rolling in 1966. Then the United States joined in 1969. As the two historic space giants slowed down, few nations had the ambition to emulate them. A third nation – China – took more than 40 years to land on the moon.
But this Japanese mission, the first in a larger program called Hakuto-R, has one very important difference. Until now, all of our satellite landing vehicles have been developed within the framework of institutional programs led by national space agencies. This mission, on the other hand, is managed by ispace, a private Japanese company.
World’s first private lander
The latter came to light thanks to the international Google Lunar Express program. It was a competition where participants all wanted to launch the first personal lander before 2018. None of the companies that entered achieved this goal; But the program has at least managed to seed some promising missions.
We can cite Israeli firm SpaceIL, another finalist for Lunar Express. It produced Bereshit Lander. It looked great, but unfortunately crashed into our satellite in 2019 after missing a braking maneuver.
From now on, the Japanese are best placed to grill their gents with their tiny 2 x 2.5 meter machines. And if iSpace achieves its goal, it could claim the first personal moon landing in the history of space. And after just six years, its operations began; Quite an impressive timeframe in a field as complex and with relatively limited funding as space.
Note that SpaceX is also developing a lander: the Human Landing System, a vehicle based on the famous Starship. Technically, it is actually a machine designed by a private company. But the mission still fits within an institutional framework. As a reminder, the vehicle is being built by NASA following a call for tenders that Elon Musk’s firm won after a bitter legal battle against Blue Origin (see our article). So HLS is not really a private machine. And in any case, he won’t leave for the moon before 2025. SpaceX is therefore already “out of the title race.First personal lander“
UAE’s first lunar mission
And if so, it would be a huge success for an otherwise low-key country in the space race. Because we’ll see Rashid on the moon lander, a tiny rover of about ten kilograms designed by the United Arab Emirates.
The country of Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan is relatively new in this field. But it can already boast some great successes, with a Mars probe launching in 2020. If the mission goes well, it will be the oil superpower’s first lunar mission.
Originally, the space vehicle was supposed to leave today. But shortly before the launch, SpaceX announced a slight delay on Twitter.
standing down from the launch of Espace’s Hakuto-R Mission 1 for additional pre-flight checkout; Now targeting liftoff on Thursday, December 1 at 3:37 am ET
—SpaceX (@SpaceX) November 30, 2022
Apparently, the company wants to test an extra battery before takeoff. So the deadline has been pushed back a day; Takeoff is now scheduled for Thursday 1 December at 9:37am French time. It will be possible to follow the departure live on the SpaceX YouTube channel.
But we’ll have to wait a little longer to find out if the lander will be successful in landing or suffer the same disastrous fate as Bereshit. The moon landing itself is scheduled for next April. So we’re giving you an appointment for launch tomorrow, then in the spring to join the final stages of this important mission to Japanese space.