SpaceX is set to launch its first private — and Japanese — private lander on Wednesday the moon.
Falcon 9 rocket scheduled to be launched It’s 3:39 a.m. (0839 GMT) from Cape Canaveral, Fla., with a backup date of Thursday.
So far, only the United States, Russia and China have managed to put a robot on the moon.
The mission, by Japanese company ispace, is the first from a program called Hakuto-R.
The lander will land around April 2023 on the visible side of the moon, in the Atlas crater, according to a company statement.
Measuring just over 2 meters by 2.5 meters (6.5 by 8 feet), it is carried on a 10-kilogram rover called the Rashid, built by the United Arab Emirates.
The oil-rich country is a newcomer to the space race, but it’s counting recent successes including Mars In 2020. If successful, Rashid will be the first lunar mission in the Arab world.
“We have accomplished a lot in the short six years since we first began conceiving this project in 2016,” He said ispace CEO Takeshi Hakamada.
Hakuto was one of five finalists in the international Google Lunar XPrize, a challenge to land a rover on the moon before the 2018 deadline, which ended without a winner. But some projects are still ongoing.
And in April 2019, the other finalists, Israel’s SpaceIL, failed to become the first privately funded mission to achieve the feat, after crashing into the surface while trying to land.
With just 200 employees, ispace says it “aims to extend human life into space and create a sustainable world by providing high-frequency, low-cost transportation services to the moon.”
Future missions are scheduled to contribute to NASA’s Artemis program. The Artemis-1 flight, an uncrewed test flight to the Moon, is currently underway.
The US space agency wants to develop the lunar economy in the coming years by building a space station in orbit around the moon and a base on the surface.
It has awarded contracts to several companies to develop ground vehicles to carry scientific experiments to the surface.
Among them, the US’s Astrobotic and Intuitive Machines should take off in 2023, and can reach their destination before ispace by taking a more direct route, according to reports.
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