Japan company's lunar landing mission fails
A private Japanese space company said Wednesday its lander's attempt to touch down on the Moon had likely failed, with the vehicle probably crashing on the lunar surface.
The spacecraft's developer, Tokyo-based Ispace Inc, was attempting to make history by being the first private company to land a vehicle on the Moon's surface, but said it lost contact with the lander early on Wednesday morning.
Having entered orbit on April 13 around 100 km above the Moon, the vehicle was planned to land near a crater at around 1:40am JST Wednesday (4:40pm Tuesday GMT)
The company said in a statement that the spacecraft's fuel was thought to have run out and the speed of its descent increased rapidly thereafter.
The Mission 1 Lander was launched on a rocket from US firm SpaceX in December from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida.
It was carrying a number of payloads, including a rover from the United Arab Emirates and a transformable robot primarily developed by Japan's space agency.
The lander, measuring 2.3 meters in height and 2.6 meters in width, in order to carry less fuel, was designed to use the sun's gravity to propel it toward its destination.
Had the landing been successful, not only would it have been the first for a private company, but the first for Japan as a nation to successfully put a craft on the Moon.
Takeshi Hakamada, founder and CEO of Ispace, said that despite the failed attempt, the mission was still significant.
"We believe that we have fully accomplished the significance of this mission, having acquired a great deal of data and experience by being able to execute the landing phase," he said.