Illustration of the Japanese lander HAKUTO-R

Hakuto-R first Japanese lander crashes on the Moon

Hakuto-R, the Japanese private lander, probably crashed after losing contact during its descent to the lunar surface. Its mission ends prematurely

Hakuto-R, the first Japanese lunar lander failed to soft-land on the Moon surface.

On Tuesday, April 25, during the live streaming of the mission, we witnessed its descent towards the lunar surface, but in the last moments, when it was about to touch the Atlas crater, we lost the signal. After a few minutes of agonizing waiting, the team announced that the mission had failed and that the lander had probably crashed.

Illustration of the Japanese lander HAKUTO-R on the lunar soil
Illustration of the Japanese lander Hakuto-R on the lunar soil. Credits: Ispace


Mission details

Hakuto-R M1 was a Japanese lunar landing mission, mainly aimed at demonstrating the lander technology. The lander was built by ispace, inc., and carried commercial and governmental payloads, including two lunar rovers (Rashid and the Japanese Lunar Excursion Vehicle).

The mission had been launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida, on December 11, 2023 at 07:38:13 UTC, onboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket along with the Lunar Flashlight mission. Communications had been established with Hakuto-R, all systems were reported in nominal state. The orbit involved a wide loop away from the Earth and Moon, followed by a return to lunar orbit. The landing was scheduled for April 25, 2023, at 16:40 UTC (12:40 p.m. EDT) in the Atlas crater.

The Earth rising over the Moon during a solar eclipse, photographed by the camera of the HAKUTO-R lander at 100 km from the lunar surface.
The Earth rising over the Moon, photographed by the camera of the Hakuto-R lander at 100 km from the lunar surface. Credits: Ispace

Rashid was a 10 kg lunar rover built in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). It was supposed to operate for 14 Earth days and study the soil, geology, dust, and plasma of the Moon. It was the first Arab lunar rover and paid tribute to the late Sheikh Rashid Al Saeed, former ruler of Dubai. Furthermore, it had two high-resolution cameras, one microscopic and one infrared. It also had a Langmuir probe to understand the sticky lunar dust.

The LEV (Lunar Excursion Vehicle) had the shape of an 8 cm diameter sphere and a mass of about 0.25 kg, that opened into a cylindrical shape with two hemispherical wheels. Its purpose was to explore the lunar surface and transmit high-definition images to Earth. This is a technological demonstration that could have paved the way for future transformable robots for space exploration.


Achievements and upcoming space missions

The Hakuto-R lander stopped communicating shortly before touching the lunar soil in the Atlas crater. The lander likely crashed into the lunar surface. It is thought that it was caused by insufficient fuel, maybe an excessive consumption not expected, as a result the engines could not slow down the landing and it fell sharply. But these remain mostly speculations since we have not received any further data, except those sent a few moments before the signal loss.

The mission could have been a historic milestone for private lunar explorations and would have created new opportunities for commercial missions to the Moon. Ispace already has a second Hakuto mission planned for 2024, which will bring more experiments to the Moon. The whole team expressed their satisfaction for the progress made during the mission and said they have a lot of valuable data to improve their skills.

Illustration of the landing sequence of the HAKUTO-R lander
Illustration of the landing sequence of the Hakuto-R lander. Credits: Ispace


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Federico Airoldi

Federico Airoldi

Coder, developer and content creator. I am dedicated to spreading my love of space exploration and inspiring others to join me in the pursuit of new frontiers. Page owner of Airo_spaceflight.

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