Japanese lunar exploration company, ispace, has attempted to land its first cargo mission on the moon. However, communication with the spacecraft was lost and the attempt has been deemed unsuccessful, according to CEO Takeshi Hakamada.
Speaking with CNBC from Tokyo, Japan, Hakamada stated that “we have not been able to confirm a successful landing on the lunar surface,” but added that the company will “keep going – never quit the lunar quest.”
The Mission 1 lunar lander was carrying scientific research and other payloads, and was aiming to softly touch down in the Atlas Crater, in the northeastern sector of the moon. The landing would have made ispace the first private entity to complete the feat.
Unfortunately, the company lost communication with the lander at “the very end” of the landing attempt and was not able to re-establish connection. The company’s team is currently investigating the situation.
Before the launch, ispace outlined 10 milestones for the mission. The company had completed eight milestones prior to Tuesday, with the ninth representing a successful soft-landing on the surface and the 10th representing the establishment of stable communications with Earth after the landing. The company hoped for this to be the first of multiple missions to the moon.
The story of ispace’s journey to the Moon
Ispace was founded more than a decade ago and originated as a team competing for the Google Lunar Xprize. After the Xprize competition was canceled, ispace expanded its goals, with Hakamada aiming to create “an economically viable ecosystem” around the moon.
The company has grown steadily as it worked toward this first mission, with over 200 employees around the world, including about 50 at its U.S. subsidiary in Denver. Additionally, ispace has steadily raised funds from a wide variety of investors, bringing in $237 million to date through a mixture of equity and debt.
The ispace Mission 1 lander was carrying small rovers and payloads for a number of government agencies and companies from the U.S., Canada, Japan, and the United Arab Emirates. The company also won a $73 million NASA contract last year as part of a team to fly cargo to the moon’s surface in 2025 under the Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) program.