Lander missiles of a Japanese company toward the moon with the United Arab Emirates spacecraft

This undated photo provided by ispace in November 2022 shows the HAKUTO-R Mission 1 lunar lander encased in a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket in Cape Canaveral, Florida (ispace via Associated Press)

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Cape Canaveral, Fla. — Tokyo Inc. was aiming for the moon with its lander on Sunday, launching a SpaceX rocket with the United Arab Emirates’ first spacecraft and a toy-like robot from Japan designed to twirl there in the gray dust.

It will take the probe and its experiments about five months to reach the moon.

ispace has designed its craft to use the minimum amount of fuel to save money and leave more space for cargo. So it takes a slow, low-energy trajectory to the Moon, flying a million miles from Earth before turning back and crossing the Moon by the end of April.

By contrast, NASA’s Orion crew capsule with test dummies took five days to reach the Moon last month. Sunday’s lunar flyby mission ended with a dramatic outflow in the Pacific Ocean.

The ispace probe is aiming at Atlas crater in the northeast section of the moon’s near side, more than 50 miles across and just over a mile deep. With its four legs extended, the probe is over 7 feet tall.

With a science satellite already in place around Mars, the UAE wants to explore the moon, too. Its rover, named Rashid after Dubai’s royal family, weighs just 22 pounds and will run on the surface for about 10 days, like everything else on the mission.

Emirates Airlines project manager Hamad Al-Marzouqi said that landing on an unexplored part of the moon will lead to “new and high-value” scientific data. In addition, the lunar surface is an “ideal platform” for testing new technology that could be used for eventual human missions to Mars.

In addition, there is national pride — the rover represents “a pioneering national endeavor in the space sector and a historic moment that, if successful, will be the first Emirati and Arab mission to land on the moon,” he said in a statement afterward. Leaves.

In addition, the probe is carrying an orange-sized ball from the Japanese space agency that will transform into a robot with wheels on the lunar surface. Also flying: solid battery from a Japanese spark plug company; an aeronautical computer in Ottawa, Ontario, equipped with artificial intelligence to identify geological features seen by the UAE rover; And 360-degree cameras from a Toronto-area company.

The rocket ride was a small NASA laser experiment, and now it’s headed to the Moon alone to search for ice in the permanently shadowed craters at the Moon’s south pole.

The ispace mission is called Hakuto, Japanese for White Rabbit. In Asian folklore, the white rabbit is said to live on the moon. The second landing on the moon by the private company is scheduled for 2024 and the third in 2025.

Founded in 2010, ispace was a finalist in the Google Lunar XPRIZE competition requiring a successful lunar landing by 2018. The lunar rover created by ispace has never been launched.

Another Israeli non-profit called SpaceIL succeeded in reaching the moon in 2019. But instead of landing softly, the Beresheet spacecraft crashed into the moon and was destroyed.

With the launch before dawn Sunday from the Space Force’s Cape Canaveral Station, ispace is now on its way to becoming one of the first private entities to attempt a moon landing. Although not launching until early next year, lunar landers built by Pittsburgh-based Astrobotic Technology and Houston Intuitive Instruments may outpace lunar spaceflight thanks to shorter cruise times.

Only Russia, the United States, and China have achieved a so-called “soft landing” on the Moon, starting with the former Soviet Union’s Luna 9 in 1966. And only the United States has put astronauts on the Moon: 12 men over the course of six landings.

Sunday marked the 50th anniversary of the last landing of astronauts on the moon, by Eugene Cernan and Apollo 17 Marshals and Harrison Schmitt on December 11, 1972.

Takeshi Hakamada, founder and CEO of ISPACE, who was not alive at the time, said everything about NASA’s Apollo satellite launch was “about the excitement of technology.” Now, “It’s the thrill of action.”

“This is the dawn of the lunar economy,” Hakamada noted in the SpaceX launch webcast. “Let’s go to the moon.”

The liftoff was supposed to have happened two weeks earlier, but was delayed by SpaceX for additional checks of the rockets.

Eight minutes after launch, the recycled booster first stage touched down again at Cape Canaveral under a near-full moon, and sonic booms reverberated throughout the night.

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