Blunder in Lunar Landing: Altitude Miscalculation at Fault
Tokyo-based space Inc. last month embarked on what was set to be a historic moment — the world's first commercial soft-landing on the lunar surface. However, the mission hit a snag when an altitude miscalculation caused the Hakuto-R spacecraft to deplete its fuel reserves prematurely, losing contact with the lander.
A Series of Space Setbacks for Japan
This incident marks another blow to Japan's space endeavors, which have recently been plagued with setbacks. The national space agency suffered major hitches in March and October when they had to destroy their new medium-lift H3 rocket and experienced a failed launch of their solid-fuel Epsilon rocket, respectively.
Future Missions: A Pledge for Enhanced Efforts
Despite these obstacles, space has promised improvements in its subsequent missions. "These missions are crucial in enhancing our knowledge to facilitate stable commercialization of space in the future," said Takeshi Hakamada, ispace chief executive, at a press meeting at the Japan National Press Club.
The New Space Race: Private Sector's Role Grows
As we move beyond the era of national space agencies monopolizing space exploration, an increasingly competitive private sector has taken the spotlight. This shift is evident in the United States' heavy reliance on private companies like Elon Musk's SpaceX and Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin for various space operations.
Ispace's Market Journey: From Triumph to Trial
The launch of Hakuto-R aboard a SpaceX rocket and space's successful debut on the Tokyo Stock Exchange created much anticipation. However, the botched landing in April led to a sharp decline in the company's share prices, which have since shown signs of recovery.
Investigation Outcome and Future Plans
An investigation into the mishap by Ispace pointed to a sensor software glitch that caused a discrepancy in the lander's altitude after it flew over a large lunar cliff. The company's next mission is 2024, involving another M1 lander carrying ispace's rover. Furthermore, they aim to collaborate with U.S. space software developer Draper by 2025 to transport NASA payloads to the moon and build a permanently staffed lunar colony by 2040.