A private Japanese lunar probe takes the first pictures in deep space
A private Japanese lunar lander opened its eyes in deep space.
The Hakuto-R probe took its first images since its launch atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket on Sunday morning (December 11), representatives for ispace, the Tokyo-based company that operates the spacecraft, announced early Tuesday morning (December 13). .
“While initial pull-ups continue at ispace’s Mission Control Center (MCC), we also received the first images captured by the ground-mounted camera! This is a picture of Earth about 19 hours after separation from the launch vehicle,” isspace said via Twitter (Opens in a new tab).
The company added, “What looks like a crescent moon here is actually Earth. At the bottom right, you can see a panel showing Hakuto-R’s partners (as of March 2022)” Another tweet (Opens in a new tab).
Lunar calendar: Human exploration of the moon
While initial clouds continue at ispace’s Mission Control Center (MCC), we’ve also received the first images taken by the ground-mounted camera. This is a picture of Earth about 19 hours after it separated from the launch vehicle. pic.twitter.com/BcM6mrw1QbDecember 13, 2022
If all goes according to plan, Hakuto-R will reach the moon in April, making the first soft landing on the moon for a Japanese spacecraft. Next, the lander will deploy a small rover called Rashid for the UAE Space Agency.
But ispace isn’t looking that far yet. This is a test flight, ispace’s first-ever mission, and the company is taking things slowly. The mission team checks out the boxes one by one – and Hakuto-R has hit its mark so far.
So far, the team has established contacts with the probe and got it in a stable orientation with a constant power source. Team members also wrote “confirmation that there are no deficiencies in the lander’s primary systems,” iSpace wrote in an update Monday. (Opens in a new tab) (December 12).
Hakuto-R’s flight will lay the groundwork for many more missions to come, if all goes according to ispace’s plan. The company plans to launch its second mission to the lunar surface in 2024 and the third — a flight for NASA’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services program — a year later.
After that, ispace is targeting two missions to the moon a year, company founder and CEO Takeshi Hakamada told Space.com recently.
“Our vision is to create a sustainable, economically viable ecosystem in lunar space [space]Hakmada said.
Hakuto-R didn’t ride into space alone on Sunday. The Falcon 9 also highlighted the Lunar Flashlight, a suitcase-sized NASA spacecraft that will search for water ice from orbit around the Moon.
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