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Japanese “mail probe” launched to the moon

The world’s first privately owned lunar lander is now on its way. Hakuto-R M1 lifted off on a Space X rocket from Florida early Sunday morning. The company behind it is betting on creating some kind of postal and delivery service to the moon.

– Takeshi Hakamada, founder and CEO of Ispace, said in the rocket launch webcast that the lunar economy is now starting to take off.

He succeeded in attracting a number of large Japanese corporations to invest in Hakuto’s expeditions, which aimed to make money by delivering materials to the moon. This sector is expected to gain momentum now that, among other things, the US agency NASA plans to build a base on our neighboring celestial body.

Cheaper travel

The flights are not operated, but on board the Hakuto-R M1 are lunar vehicles and robots from Japan and the United Arab Emirates. Hakuto means “white rabbit”, because according to Japanese mythology, the white rabbit lives on the moon.

Like Elon Musk’s SpaceX company, Ispace aims to offer resource-efficient tours that are more efficient and therefore cheaper than competitors’ rides. An example of this is that it took Hakuto nearly five months to reach the moon. This can be compared to the five days for NASA’s Artemis 1, which was delayed in November.

Thus, the question is whether Ispace will truly be the first private company to operate a controlled landing on the Moon. American competitors Astrobotic Technology and Intuitive Machines won’t send their own lunar landers until early next year, but they might still be there first.

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Destroyed upon landing

A factor that should not be underestimated is also the technical risks of the actual landing. A number of missions have failed to do so over the years. Among the latter is the Israeli company SpaceIL, which undertook a similar project in 2019 when the Beresheet probe was sent up on a Space X rocket.

But it ended in horror when Beresheet did not slow down as it was supposed to, but rather reached the surface of the moon at a speed of 500 kilometers per hour, and was thus completely destroyed.

Back to earth

Artemis 1’s Orion rover touched down on Earth later Sunday after orbiting the moon. With a big drizzle, Orion touched down in the Pacific Ocean off the west coast of Mexico.

In the coming years, Orion will take people to the moon under the Artemis program, and the first unmanned flight was made to test whether the vehicle is safe. However, Orion did not land on the moon, but was only in orbit and came within 130 kilometers of the lunar surface.

On Sunday, it also marked 50 years since humans last landed on the moon, with NASA’s Apollo 17 expedition.