Cape Canaveral, Fla. ( Associated Press) – A Japanese company aiming to land its private lander on the moon on Sunday launched the United Arab Emirates’ first lunar rover with a SpaceX rocket and a toy-like Japanese-designed robot. To navigate the gray moondust.
It will take about five months for the lander and its experiments to reach the Moon.
The iSpace company has designed its vehicle to consume a minimum of fuel, save money and allow more room for cargo. So it will take a slow, low-power course to the satellite, flying 1.6 million kilometers (1 million miles) above Earth before returning and rendezvousing with the Moon in late April.
In contrast, it took five days for NASA’s Orion crew capsule with the test dummy to reach the Moon last month. The mission ends on Sunday with a splashdown over the Pacific.
The iSpace lander will attempt to land in Atlas Crater in the moon’s northeast, which is more than 50 miles (87 kilometers) wide and just over 1 mile (2 kilometers) deep. With its four legs extended, the device is over 7 feet (2.3 m) tall.
The United Arab Emirates, which already has a scientific satellite in orbit around Mars, also wants to explore the Moon. Their vehicle, named Rasheed after Dubai’s royal family, weighs only 10 kg (22 lb) and will operate on the surface for about 10 days like the other elements of the mission.
The lander is also carrying an orange-shaped sphere from the Japanese space agency, which will transform into a wheeled robot on the Moon. They also ride on a solid battery from a Japanese plug company; A flight computer from an Ottawa, Ontario company, with artificial intelligence to identify geodetic landmarks seen by the Emirati vehicle, and 360-degree cameras from a Toronto-regional firm.
On board the rocket was also a small NASA laser experiment that will reach the moon to search for ice in the craters of the satellite’s south pole, where the sun never shines.
The iSpace mission is called Hakuto, meaning white rabbit, because according to Asian folklore there is a white rabbit that lives on the Moon. The company plans to land another moon in 2024 and a third in 2025.
Founded in 2010, the company was one of the finalists in the Google Lunar XPRIZE competition, which included a successful Moon launch in 2018. The iSpace-designed lunar rover never launched.
Another finalist, Israeli non-profit firm SpaceIL, managed to reach the Moon in 2019. But instead of landing safely, the Beresheet spacecraft crashes into the Moon and is destroyed.
After Sunday morning’s launch from Cape Canaveral, iSpace could become one of the first private companies to attempt a moon landing. Although they don’t ship until early next year, modules from Pittsburgh’s Astrobiotic Technology and Houston’s Intuitive Machines could beat iSpace because they have faster routes.
Only Russia, the United States, and China have achieved “soft” Moon landings on a satellite, beginning with the former Soviet Union’s Luna 9 mission in 1966. And only the United States has sent 12 people to the Moon in six trips.
The Associated Press is supported by the Department of Health and Science’s Science and Education Media Group at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. Associated Press is solely responsible for its content.