Japanese Company Joins March Back to the Moon in 2022

A Japanese company is moving ahead with plans to launch a private moon lander by the end of 2022, full of other moonshot ambitions and rehearsals that could predict how soon humans will return to the lunar surface.

If plans continue, the Tokyo-based company, Ispace, will complete the first uninterrupted landing by a Japanese spacecraft on the moon. And by the time he arrives, he may find other new visitors who have begun exploring the lunar regolith from Russia and the United States this year. (Yutu-2, a Chinese rover, is currently the only robotic mission to the moon.)

Other missions planned to orbit the moon in 2022, most notably the NASA Artemis-1 mission, are the crucial uncruked test of American hardware aimed at taking astronauts back to the moon. South Korea may also launch its first lunar orbiter later this year.

But other countries hoping to reach the moon in 2022 have fallen behind. India was planning its second robotic moon landing attempt this year. But its Chandrayaan-3 mission was delayed until mid-2023, MK said. Sivan, who completed his term as chairman of the country’s space agency this month, said. Russia, on the other hand, is confident that its Luna-25 Lander will take off this summer.

The M1 Moon Lander, created by Space, is the size of a small hot tub. It is in the final stages of assembly at the Ariane Group facilities in Germany, the company’s European partner, which recently built the rocket launching the James Webb Space Telescope.

If structural tests are scheduled for April, the M1 will be sent to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida for launch on one of the SpaceX Falcon 9 rockets.

Takeshi Hakamada, founder and chief executive of Espace, told a news conference in Japan on Tuesday that “the exact launch date is set for the earliest possible end of 2022.”

The landing on the moon will take place after three to four months as the mission uses a long lunar route to save fuel and maximize the amount of cargo it can carry through the M1 lander.

Many years ago, ispace was a finalist in the Google Lunar X Prize – a contest that ended in 2018 with no winner of the $ 20 million prize aimed at promoting the private moon mission. Although it did not win the Google Award, the company raised more than $ 90 million in 2017 and will see healthy business in the future by carrying payloads to the lunar surface for governments, research institutes and private companies.

Its ambitious timeline expects more than 10 lunar landings in the coming years, amid a flurry of space companies, which envision lunar mining for invaluable resources such as iron and silicon that could return to Earth or expand structures on the lunar surface. Can be used.

Clients for Espace’s first lunar landing include Japan’s space agency, JAXA, which aims to test a small rover that can change shape for different terrain, and the UAE’s space program, which is sending its first lunar rover. – A wheeled robot named Rashid.

Nations and private companies have in recent years determined their vision for its potential to serve as a staging ground for spacecraft and other technologies on the moon that could be used for future missions to Mars. The Artemis program focuses heavily on private companies to reduce the cost of going to the moon, and hopes to stimulate a commercial market for various lunar services.

Although Ispace’s M1 mission is primarily to demonstrate operations on the moon, the company’s next mission, the M2, will carry its own “micro rover” designed to operate around the surface and study lunar terrain. Hideki Shimomura, Espace’s chief technology officer, said the mission was delayed from 2023 to 2024 to accommodate engineering schedule changes and its customers’ timelines.

Two American companies are also targeting the moon before the end of the year; Astrobotics, the space robotics firm in Pittsburgh, and Houston’s intuitive machines. Both companies are building their spacecraft with the support of Commercial Lunar Payload Services, a NASA program aimed at helping fund the development of privately owned lenders capable of sending research equipment to the lunar surface.

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