Japanese lunar exploration company ispace is attempting to land its first cargo mission on the moon on Tuesday, making it the first private entity to achieve the feat.
The Tokyo-based company’s Mission 1 lunar lander aims to land in the Atlas Crater, which sits in the northeastern sector of the moon. The company’s uncrewed mission carries scientific research and other payloads. There is no one on board.
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Founded over a decade ago, ispace was originally a team competing for the Google Lunar Xprize under the name Hakuto – after a mythological Japanese white rabbit. After the cancellation of the Xprize contest, ispace refocused and expanded its goals, with ispace founder and CEO Takeshi Hakamada aiming to create “an economically viable ecosystem” around the moon, he said in a recent interview.
The company has continued to grow during this first mission, with more than 200 employees worldwide, including fifty in its American subsidiary in Denver. Additionally, ispace has consistently raised funds from a wide variety of investors, raising $237 million to date through a mix of equity and debt. Investors in ispace include Development Bank of Japan, Suzuki Motor, Japan Airlines and Airbus Ventures.
Technicians are completing final preparations for launch on the company’s Mission 1 lander.
The ispace Mission 1 lander is approximately 7 feet tall and carries small rovers and payloads for a number of government agencies and companies, including from the United States, Canada, Japan and the United Arab Emirates. .
Prior to launch, ispace defined 10 mission milestones. The company has completed nine so far, with the 10th representing a successful soft landing on the surface. The milestones demonstrate the complexity and difficulty of ispace’s mission, as it seeks to accomplish a feat previously accomplished only by global superpowers. A previous private lunar mission, piloted by the Israeli nonprofit SpaceIL and also born out of the Google Lunar Xprize, crashed on the surface while attempting to land in April 2019.
The company plans for this to be the first of several missions to the moon. Last year, ispace won a $73 million contract with NASA as part of a team led by Massachusetts-based Draper to ferry cargo to the surface of the moon in 2025 as part of the program. Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS).
The Earth rises above the surface of the Moon, seen from the company’s lander in lunar orbit in April 2023.
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