Japanese Moon Lander Crashes


A private moon landing attempt ended with the likely destruction of the lander. Japanese firm ispace said it lost contact with the Hakuto-R Mission 1 lander when it apparently ran out of propellant needed to slow the vehicle. “It apparently went into a freefall towards the surface as it was running out of fuel to fire up its thrusters,” Ryo Ujiie, the chief technology officer, told a news conference on Wednesday. The lander may have miscalculated its altitude before the crash.

The lander was launched by SpaceX in Florida four months ago and simulations based on telemetry suggest it got within about 300 feet of the landing site before contact was lost. The company hoped to deploy a couple of small rovers to the moon’s surface and some experimental devices. The Japanese government wants the firm to “keep trying,” according to spokesman Hirokazu Matsuno.

Russ Niles
Russ Niles is Editor-in-Chief of AVweb. He has been a pilot for 30 years and joined AVweb 22 years ago. He and his wife Marni live in southern British Columbia where they also operate a small winery.

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  1. Sounds like they wound up with the Ranger type impact landing on the moon. Back to the drawing board for iSpace.

  2. I guess that’s like falling 50 feet on the Earth. That would probably do in most mechanical devices. Missed it by that much!

  3. Not to condone the ethos behind SpaceX’s recent “successful disassembly”, but every project represents a continuum of achievements. Had the Hakuto lander touched down softly, but the solar array failed due to the dust kicked up, and the batteries died eight hours later, would that have not been seen as a success? Qualified, of course, in that it did not achieve all of its mission objectives, but quite a few of them were met, and no one died. The Wright Flyer was crashed and repaired many times over several years.

    And every so often the opposite occurs. When the right people and the stars align, we get Ingenuity on Mars.

  4. I suspect that Hakuto 2 will have a considerably larger propellant tank. Learning from Apollo 11, the tanks on the lander for Apollo 13 had more fuel to allow for longer hover and maneuvering time. Neil Armstrong put his lander down with less than 15 seconds of fuel remaining.

  5. The first V-2’s were failures also…..Thankfully. But eventually Werner got it right, thanks to NASA, and operation paperclip.