If all goes according to plan, Tokyo-based ispace will be the first company to land a spacecraft on the surface of the moon in over three decades. The Hakuto-R lunar lander is rapidly approaching its target date, and if everything goes according to schedule it will become just the fourth object ever to touch down on our nearest celestial neighbor.
Since its launch, Ispace’s lander has traveled the farthest a privately funded, commercial operating spacecraft has ever ventured into space. The spacecraft is now in mid-March and is expected to complete all deep space orbital maneuvers by early April. After insertion into lunar orbit in late-March, the company anticipates beginning its mission to explore the moon’s surface.
The success of the Ispace mission marks a significant milestone for the company, as it shows that its lander and subsystems are viable tools for future space endeavors. The data acquired during the flight will help ispace determine the best way to use these assets in future missions.
What structural problems may NASA face with the lander’s deployment? One potential issue is the stiffness of the landing gear. If this gear proves to be too stiff, it could cause excessive stress on other components of the lander, potentially leading to malfunctions. Additionally, data from sensors located near the surface could be unreliable if they experience interference from ambient radiation or dust particles in space. Additionally, errors in laser aiming may compromise science observations.
Despite the unexpected issues with communications after the lander deployed from the Falcon 9, Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) has managed to successfully land two robotic rovers on Mars. The thermal temperatures were hotter than anticipated and required the use of a heat shield, but overall these issues have not impacted operations. JAXA is still hopeful that their data collected from both rovers will provide valuable information about Martian surface features and climate history.
Regardless of whatever faults may be found with Ispace’s fledgling plan to establish a Moon colony, the company is firmly dedicated to its vision and is confident that the technology and resources it has developed can make the dream of lunar habitation a reality. With multiple missions scheduled for later this century, Ispace has set out to make history – whether or not that ends up being a good thing remains to be seen.
The second phase of the Japanese space agency’s lunar exploration project will see commercial payloads being sent to the moon’s surface. Companies including Takasago Thermal Engineering Co., Euglena Co. and the Department of Space Science and Engineering at Taiwan’s National Central University are planned to contribute their capabilities to this mission. This means that not only will Japan continue its claim as a leading space power, but also that lunar exploration may soon become a reality for many more countries.
SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell poses for a portrait at the Tesla Factory in Fremont, California Thomson Reuters
SpaceX president and chief operating officer Gwynne Shotwell is scheduled to speak at the 35th Space Symposium in Colorado Springs on Wednesday. The symposium is one of the world’s premier gatherings of space professionals and features lectures by some of the most prominent minds in spaceflight. In her keynote address, Shotwell plans to discuss SpaceX’s recent successes and challenges as well as its vision for future efforts.