Moon landing attempt: World’s first commercial lunar lander presumed lost

A photo of the Moon taken from the ispace lander’s onboard camera from an altitude of 100km above the lunar surface (ispace)
A photo of the Moon taken from the ispace lander’s onboard camera from an altitude of 100km above the lunar surface (ispace)

A Japanese startup has attempted to land the first ever privately-funded spacecraft on the Moon on Tuesday, though its status remains unclear.

Tokyo-based ispace planned to land a robotic spacecraft on the Moon as part of the Hakuto-R Mission 1, which launched on 11 December 2022 aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.

The lander had been in lunar orbit since 21 March, with the touch down expected to take place at 5.40pm BST.

A live stream of the Moon landing was broadcast on ispace’s YouTube channel at 4pm, offering people around the world to follow its progress.

Communications with the craft were lost just at the moment of the planned landing, with ispace saying that it may well have crashed into the Moon’s surface rather than land safely.

“We have to assume that we did not complete the landing,” an ispace spokesperson says. “Our engineers will continue to investigate the situation.”

Key points

  • How ispace plans to land its craft

  • ispace shares photos from the lander

Hello and welcome...

Tuesday 25 April 2023 11:04 , Anthony Cuthbertson

to The Independent’s live coverage of the Hakuto-R Mission 1, which will see the Japanese startup ispace attempt to be the world’s first private company to land a spacecraft safely on the Moon.

We’ll have all the latest updates from the Hakuto-R Mission 1 right here, with a live stream broadcast from 4pm BST.

All being well, the touch down will take place just over an hour and a half later. Otherwise backup dates are available if the operational status is unfavourable, with the earliest set for tomorrow.

Moon landing live: How ispace plans to land its craft

Tuesday 25 April 2023 11:18 , Anthony Cuthbertson

The Hakuro-R Mission 1 landing sequence has been shared by ispace.

It involves an engine thrust against its orbital direction in order to slow it down, before a short pitch-up maneuver to adjust its altitude.

The spacecraft will then perform a vertical descent to the surface of the Moon. The whole process should take approximately one hour.

Here’s how ispace officials describe the landing sequence: “The lander will perform a braking burn, firing its main propulsion system to decelerate from orbit. Utilizing a series of pre-set commands, the lander will adjust its attitude and reduce velocity in order to make a soft landing on the lunar surface.”


Moon landing live: ispace shares photos from the lander

Tuesday 25 April 2023 11:49 , Anthony Cuthbertson

With ispace’s lunar lander still in orbit, the startup has shared two photos taken from its onboard camera at an altitude of around 100km.

The first shows the lunar surface taken on 15 April, while the second shows a lunar earthrise during a solar eclipse. The incredible photo shows the Moon’s shadow on the Earth’s southern hemisphere on 20 April.

“The Moon hung perfectly between the Sun and Earth at this moment, casting a shadow resulting in the solar eclipse visible over Australia,” ispace notes. (You can watch that rare total eclipse right here.)

Moon landing live: Where is ispace’s craft landing?

Tuesday 25 April 2023 12:44 , Anthony Cuthbertson

The Hakuto-R craft is currently orbiting the Moon, but in a few hours it will attempt to touch down on the lunar surface. If successful, it will be the first ever privately-owned spacecraft to achieve the feat. But where exactly is it going to land?

Plan A is to land it in the Altlas Crater, located at the outer edge of Mare Frigoris, or the Sea of Cold, today at 5.40pm BST. If this fails, there are backup dates on 26 April, 1 May and 3 May, which could potentially alter the landing site, depending on the operational status of the spacecraft.

“Careful consideration of the target site criteria included continuous sun-illumination duration and communication visibility from the Earth,” ispace said in its mission brief.


Moon landing live: T-Minus 100 minutes for the ispace mission to start

Tuesday 25 April 2023 14:24 , Anthony Cuthbertson

There’s just 100 minutes to go until ispace begins preparations to land.

The whole landing attempt of the Hakuto-R craft will be live streamed on the Japanese firm’s official YouTube channel, which is available just below.

There are already more than 7,000 people waiting to watch this potentially historic moment, which is similar to the level of interest generated by a major SpaceX launch.

Moon landing live: Japanese ispace mission is not the first lunar landing attempt

Tuesday 25 April 2023 15:47 , Anthony Cuthbertson

Japan’s ispace is not the first privately-funded venture to attempt a moon landing, but if successful it will be the first to achieve it. In 2019, Israel’s SpaceIL crashed its Beresheet lander onto the lunar surface, spilling thousands of hardy tardigrades.

You can read more about that mission here.

 (composite/ The Independent)
(composite/ The Independent)

Moon landing live: Live stream delay

Tuesday 25 April 2023 16:19 , Anthony Cuthbertson

We’re still waiting on the live stream from ispace, which was meant to start 15 minutes ago. While we wait, here’s a reminder of what the Japanese company is trying to achieve with this mission.

There are 10 milestones that Mission 1 is attemtping to reach, ranging from the launch that took place last year, to delivering its customers’ payloads to the lunar surface after landing.

We’re currently up to ‘Success 9’ by the firm’s own tally, but arguably number 10 is bigger than all others that have come before it.


Moon landing live: ispace launches stream

Tuesday 25 April 2023 16:33 , Anthony Cuthbertson

Half an hour later than scheduled, ispace has launched its live stream of the final stages of its Hakuto-R Mission 1.

You can watch it here:

Moon landing live: Communications with lander go dark

Tuesday 25 April 2023 16:51 , Anthony Cuthbertson

We’re around 45 minutes away from the landing attempt. The ispace lander is currently on the other side of the Moon, so we won’t be hearing from it for another 30 minutes.

Until then, we’re hearing from figures from the company and the broader space industry in a mix of live broadcasts and pre-recorded interviews.


Moon landing live: ‘Ready for the landing sequence’

Tuesday 25 April 2023 16:57 , Anthony Cuthbertson

Everything is progressing as planned so far, with ispace saying the Hakuto-R Mission 1 is “ready for the landing sequence”.

Moon landing live: Lander reappears from far side of moon

Tuesday 25 April 2023 17:34 , Anthony Cuthbertson

We’re only minutes away from the planned landing now, as the craft emerges from the far side of the Moon. It is currently following an automated landing procedure, so it’s just a case now that all goes to plan.

“It seems that, if everything is going as expected, we should have entered the burn phase,” ispace says.

A CGI mock-up of the lander’s current position (ispace)
A CGI mock-up of the lander’s current position (ispace)

Moon landing live: Still waiting for confirmation

Tuesday 25 April 2023 17:47 , Anthony Cuthbertson

We’re past the planned landing time, but we’re still waiting for confirmation that the mission succeeded...

Moon landing live: ‘Please be patient'

Tuesday 25 April 2023 18:00 , Anthony Cuthbertson

Still no word on whether ispace has succeeded in landing a spacecraft on the Moon. A spokesperson says “please be patient” while we await confirmation.

Moon landing live: 'We have to assume that we did not complete the landing’

Tuesday 25 April 2023 18:09 , Anthony Cuthbertson

There is still no confirmation of the landing, with ispace losing communication with the spacecraft right as the planned landing occurred.

“We have to assume that we did not complete the landing,” an ispace spokesperson says. “Our engineers will continue to investigate the situation.”

Moon landing live: Stream comes to an end as investigation continues

Tuesday 25 April 2023 18:13 , Anthony Cuthbertson

The live stream is now over, with ispace signing off with the words: “Don’t forget, never quit the lunar quest.”

Moon landing live: ispace update

Tuesday 25 April 2023 19:22 , Anthony Cuthbertson

Here’s the latest from ispace, still no confirmation either way.

ispace believes spacecraft likely crashed during landing

01:57 , Abe Asher

ispace believes that its lunar lander ultimately crashed around the time it was supposed to land on the surface of the moon on Tuesday.

“It has been determined that there is a high probability that the lander eventually made a hard landing,” ispace said in a statement.

Japanese lunar craft likely crashed during Moon landing, company says