"We believe that in 2040 the Moon will have 1,000 inhabitants and that some 10,000 people will visit it each year."
This is the commitment of the Japanese company Ispace, which today will try to become the first private entity to land on the satellite.
probe , the size of a large refrigerator, will attempt to land in the Atlas crater, within the unexplored Mare Frigoris, or Sea of Cold, in the far north of the Moon.
If it succeeds, it will become not only the first robotic ship to land in this area, but also the first to reach the lunar surface led by a company.
Ispace's stated goal is to lead the "space economy" by extracting water on the Moon and shipping experiments, supplies and other materials as a government or corporate customer.
"Imagine that the Moon allows the construction of buildings, energy extraction, metallurgy, communication, transportation, agriculture, medicine and tourism," the company ventures on its website.
The most powerful rockets in history speed up the race to the Moon
With the imminent return to the Moon of the great space powers at the hands of large private companies, that forecast sounds increasingly realistic.
The consulting firm PwC calculates that transport to the Moon will move about 350,000 million dollars at the end of the next decade, compared to the current 6,600.
The Japanese company wants to be the first to start making a profit.
This project arises from a relative failure.
His goal was to win the $20 million Lunar X Prize launched by Google for the first company capable of landing on the Moon and moving 500 meters across its surface.
The award was abandoned in 2018 after none of the candidates achieved their goal.
One of the contenders was
, a probe devised by three Israeli engineers that crashed in 2019. It was a disappointing end to an investment of almost 90 million euros.
That project was an attempt by Israel to become the fourth country to successfully land on the Moon, after the US, Russia and China.
That is exactly the objective that the Ispace company is now pursuing, chaired by the Japanese businessman Takeshi Hakamada, 44 years old.
We've received another incredible photo from the camera onboard our Mission 1 lander!
Seen here is the lunar Earthrise during solar eclipse, captured by the lander-mounted camera at an altitude of about 100 km from the lunar surface.
— ispace (@ispace_inc) April 24, 2023
means white rabbit.
The name is due to the Asian legend that says that a rodent of that color lives on the Moon.
Europa has made important contributions to the ship.
The European Space Agency provides communication between the probe and the control center, located in Tokyo.
The ship's propulsion system and its final assembly have been carried out by the European company Ariane.
The guidance system is from Draper, a private aerospace laboratory based near Boston, USA.
The Draper, which collaborates with Ispace, has already won one of NASA's million-dollar contracts to bring scientific equipment to the satellite in 2025 as part of the Artemis program.
The objective of this ambitious program of the United States, Europe, Canada, Japan and other countries is to send astronauts to the surface of the Moon in 2025, settle colonies there and begin to extract water to make rocket fuel with which to reach Mars inside two decades.
We are excited to share a new photo of the Moon taken by the lander's on-board camera from an altitude of about 100 km above the lunar surface.
The photo was taken at 4:32 am on April 15 (JST).
— ispace (@ispace_inc) April 24, 2023
Since its launch in December 2022, the Japanese ship has been successfully meeting all its objectives.
His approach is to reach the Moon in a trip of about five months because it means significant fuel savings.
On April 14, the probe fired its engines for 10 minutes to adjust its orbit around the satellite and prepare for landing.
The probe has already sent back its first images of the lunar surface.
Everything seems ready for landing.
The probe is scheduled to fire its thrusters once again today to begin the descent from a height of 100 kilometers.
The ship will begin its approach to the Mare Frigoris.
Approximately one hour later, the aircraft will attempt a soft landing in Atlas crater fully automatically.
Should there be any problems, there will be several opportunities to land throughout this week and the next.
The spacecraft transports a small prototype of a lunar robot designed by the Japanese Space Agency and which will be used to carry out experiments with lunar regolith and to collaborate in the development of the Lunar Cruiser,
future manned lunar exploration vehicle developed by the Japanese agency and the Toyota company. .
The other passenger on the
is a scout vehicle paid for by the United Arab Emirates.
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