Japan’s Ispace Lander launches to the Moon with a rover from the United Arab Emirates

Japan’s Ispace Lander launches to the Moon with a rover from the United Arab Emirates

As a vestige of its Lunar X Prize heritage, it also carries a panel engraved with the names of people who supported the crowdfunding and a music disc with a song performed by Japanese rock group Sakanaction.

The landing of the Japanese company is not the only passenger on Sunday’s flight. A secondary payload on the Falcon 9 is a small NASA mission, Lunar Flashlight, which involves entering an elliptical orbit around the Moon and using an infrared laser to probe deep, dark craters in the polar regions of the moon.

Like some other recent lunar missions, M1 is taking a tortuous, energy-efficient journey to the moon and won’t land in Atlas Crater in the moon’s northern hemisphere until late April. The fuel-efficient trajectory allows the mission to pack more payload and carry less fuel.

As part of the Artemis I mission, NASA’s Orion spacecraft traveled to the Moon and then orbited it. It came back down to Earth later Sunday, with a splash in the Pacific Ocean.

A small NASA-funded mission called CAPSTONE also recently arrived to explore an orbit in which NASA plans to build a lunar outpost where astronauts will stop on their way to the Moon.

And although it hasn’t arrived yet, the moon will receive a third new visitor next month. Danuri, a South Korean space probeit was launched in August and is due to enter lunar orbit on December 16. The spacecraft will help develop technology for future Korean missions, and also carries scientific instruments to study the moon’s chemical composition and magnetic field.

A NASA program called Commercial Lunar Payload Services, or CLPS, has been looking to send surface experiments to the Moon. The first two missions, from Intuitive Machines of Houston and Astrobotic Technology of Pittsburgh, are scheduled to launch next year after considerable delays. The Intuitive Machines lander, which could launch as early as March, could even beat Ispace to the moon because it uses a fast six-day trajectory.

As it is not an American company, Ispace could not participate directly in the NASA program. However, it is part of a team led by Draper Technologies of Cambridge, Massachusetts, that has won a CLPS mission from NASA. This mission is scheduled to begin in 2025.

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