Private Japanese spacecraft descends toward moon

Japanese start-up ispace’s Hakuto-R lunar lander began descending Wednesday toward the surface of the Moon, company officials said.

The lander was on the backside of the Moon at about 1600 GMT Tuesday and was expected to land and begin sending signals back to Earth within 30 minutes, the company said during a live update of the operation.

“Our lander is now on the Moon’s far side and heading for its designated landing area. We expect to reestablish communication in approximately 30 minutes,” an official said.

If successful, ispace will become the first private firm to place a working spacecraft on the Moon.

The lander, standing just over two meters tall and weighing 340 kilograms, has been in lunar orbit since last month.

It was launched from Earth on December 11 on one of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rockets.

So far only the United States, Russia, and China have managed to put a robot on the lunar surface, all through government-sponsored programs.

In April 2019, Israeli organization SpaceIL watched their lander crash into the Moon’s surface.

India also attempted to land a spacecraft on the Moon in 2019, but it crashed.

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