In the nation’s first lunar mission and the first of its kind by a private company, a spacecraft built by a Japanese startup was sent to the moon on Sunday.
Elon Musk’s SpaceX carried out the launch in Cape Canaveral, Florida, after two delays due to additional pre-flight checks.
Live video of the launch showed that the spacecraft, which was built by a startup in Tokyo called ispace, took off at 2:38 in the morning on a Falcon 9 rocket.
Takeshi Hakamada, the startup’s chief executive officer, stated in a statement, “Our first mission will lay the groundwork for unleashing the moon’s potential and transforming it into a robust and vibrant economic system.”
Only the United States, Russia, and China have successfully placed a robot on the lunar surface so far.
The first mission in the Hakuto-R program, which translates to “white rabbit” in Japanese, is the ispace mission.
The company stated that it expected its lunar lander to land on the visible side of the Moon in April 2023, which is Japan’s year of the rabbit.
The spacecraft carries a 10-kilogram Emirati rover as its payload, which is slightly larger than two meters by 2.5 meters.
The nation in the Gulf of Mexico is relatively new to the space race, but it sent a probe into Mars’ orbit last year. It will be the first moon mission for the Arab world if the rover, which goes by the name Rashid, lands successfully.
Hakuto was one of five finalists in Google’s Lunar XPrize competition, which had a deadline of 2018 but didn’t select a winner.
In addition, the Japanese space agency’s two robots and a CD featuring the song “SORATO” by Sakanaction, a rock band from Japan, are on board the ispace lunar lander. The song was originally written to support the Google competition.
Another contestant, the Israeli organization SpaceIL, failed to become the first privately funded mission to land on the moon in April 2019 when its lander crashed into the lunar surface while trying to land.
ispace, which only has 200 employees, stated that it “aims to provide high-frequency, low-cost transportation services to the moon in order to extend the sphere of human life into space and create a sustainable world.”