Watch Japan attempt world's first commercial moon landing today

Japanese startup ispace is preparing to land its Hakuto-R Mission 1 (M1) spacecraft on the moon this evening, in what would be the world’s first lunar landing by a private company if it succeeds.

The M1 lander is set to touch down around 5.40 pm local time on Tuesday, in the moon’s Altlas Crater, located at the outer edge of Mare Frigoris, or the Sea of Cold.

In December, the lander took off from Cape Canaveral, Florida, on a SpaceX rocket.

The 2.3-metre-tall M1 lander which has been in lunar orbit since 21 March, will begin an hour-long landing phase from its current position some 100 km above the surface moving at nearly 6,000 km/hour, Chief Technology Officer Ryo Ujiie told a media briefing on Monday.

Ujiie likened the task of slowing down the lander to the correct speed against the moon’s gravitational pull to ‘stepping on the brakes on a running bicycle at the edge of a ski jumping hill’.

Only the United States, the former Soviet Union and China have soft-landed a spacecraft on the moon, with attempts in recent years by India and a private Israeli company ending in failure.

How to watch tonight’s lunar landing?

iSpace will attempt to land its payload on Tuesday, April 25, at 5.40 pm local time.

A livestream will begin at 4.20 pm this evening on iSpace’s YouTube channel, so you can follow its progress.

In case it’s unsuccessful, alternative landing dates have been set for 26 April, 1 May and 3 May, depending on the operational status of the mission.

Different landing sites have also been proposed by ispace, with the primary target being the Atlas Crater.

After reaching the landing site at the edge of Mare Frigoris, in the moon’s northern hemisphere, the M1 is to deploy a two-wheeled, baseball-sized rover developed by JAXA, Japanese toymaker Tomy and Sony, as well as the United Arab Emirates’ four-wheeled ‘Rashid’ Rover.

The M1 is also carrying an experimental solid-state battery made by NGK Spark Plug among other objects to gauge how they perform on the moon.

The primary landing site for our HAKUTO-R Mission 1 is Atlas Crater, located in the northeastern quadrant of the Moon. (1/3)

📸 @NASA #ispace #HAKUTO_R #lunarquest

In its second mission scheduled in 2024, the M1 will bring ispace’s own rover, while from 2025, it is set to work with US space lab Draper to bring Nasa payloads to the moon, targeting building a permanently staffed lunar colony by 2040.

Last month, Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) lost its new medium-lift H3 rocket to forced manual destruction after it reached space. That was less than five months since JAXA’s solid-fuel Epsilon rocket failed after launch in October.

A successful landing would help further Japan’s goal of sending Japanese astronauts to the moon by the late 2020s.

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