In the first lunar mission ever for the nation and the first of its type by a private enterprise, a spacecraft built by a Japanese startup was launched to the Moon on Sunday.After two delays for extra pre-flight tests, Elon Musk’s SpaceX launched the rocket from Cape Canaveral in the US state of Florida.
Live video of the launch showed the spacecraft, which was manufactured by the Tokyo-based firm ispace and was carrying a rover made in the UAE, blasting off aboard a Falcon 9 rocket at 2:38am (0738 GMT).
The startup’s CEO, Takeshi Hakamada, said in a statement that “our first mission will establish the foundation for releasing the Moon’s potential and transforming it into a healthy and thriving economic system.”
Only the United States, Russia, and China have been able to successfully land a robot on the moon thus far.
The Hakuto-R programme, which stands for “white rabbit” in Japanese, launched its first mission with the iSpace mission.
The business predicted that its lunar lander would land on the Moon’s surface in April 2023, the Japanese zodiac’s Year of the Rabbit.
The spacecraft, which measures just over two by 2.5 metres, is carrying a 10-kilogram United Arab Emirates-built rover as part of its payload.
Despite being a newcomer to the space race, the Gulf nation launched a probe into Mars’ orbit last year. The Rashid rover will be the first Moon mission for the Arab world if it lands successfully.
In a tweet on Sunday, UAE Vice-President Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum praised the launch as “part of the UAE’s ambitious space programme.”
Our mission is to disseminate knowledge, hone our skills, and leave a scientific legacy on human history, he stated.
The ground control had successfully received a signal from the spacecraft, according to the Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre in the United Arab Emirates.
In Google’s Lunar XPrize competition to send a rover to the Moon by the end of 2018, Hakuto was one of five finalists. However, the competition ended without a winner.
The Japanese rock band Sakanaction’s song “SORATO,” which was originally recorded in support of the Google competition, is also included on the disc that the ispace lunar lander is transporting together with two robots made by the Japanese space agency.