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Japanese outfit's private Moon mission enters Lunar orbit

Now all it has to do is land

The possibility of the world's first successful privately funded and operated Moon landing is looking a little more likely after Japanese aerospace outfit ispace announced its Hakuto-R lander successfully completed a lunar orbit insertion maneuver on Tuesday.

The lander took a three-month journey to the Moon after launching aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 in December 2022. According to an ispace press release, it performed multiple deep space maneuvers – the latest of which "represents the longest burn performed by the propulsion system during the mission."

Landing is scheduled for late April.

A nifty video from ispace depicts the spacecraft's journey:

YouTube Video

Within Hakuto-R's payload lies a first for another nation: the United Arab Emirates' first Moon mission, the Rashid rover.

Also onboard is a lunar camera from Candensys Aerospace and an AI flight computer from Mission Control Services, both of which are Canadian.

NASA's lunar flashlight is also hitching a ride, as is SORA-Q – a transformable robot built by a partnership between Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), Doshisha University, Sony, and Japanese toy company Tomy. It's no toy, though – SORA-Q is a miniature lunar rover.

"Future ispace missions will involve deployment of satellites into lunar orbit," said ispace.

The ambitious biz said it is in "active negotiations" with a number of global entities for both future lunar landings and transport to orbit.

Second and third missions are already planned. Hakuto-R Mission 2, which includes a lunar lander and rover, is expected to launch in 2024.

Mission 3 is slated for 2025 and is a part of NASA's Commercial Lunar Payload Services program, which seeks to outsource Moon transport services to private industry.

"During Mission 3, two relay satellites are planned to be injected into lunar orbit to establish communications with the landing site on the far side of the Moon," said ispace. "The valuable data and know-how gained from today's operation is being incorporated into mission planning for Mission 3 in order to enhance technical reliability."

A previous private moonshot, the Israeli "Beresheet" mission, made it to the moon but crashed-landed in 2019. ®

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