Mission Control Loses Contact With Lander in First Private Moon Landing

Worrying news for ispace's HAKUTO-R

Hakuto-R launches
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launches the HAKUTO-R Mission 1 from pad 40 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station on December 11, 2022.
Paul Hennessy/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

An ambitious attempt by a private company to get a lander to the Moon appears to have come to an end today with an unsettling silence. Late last year, a SpaceX rocket transported HAKUTO-R Mission 1 off the surface of the Earth and on its way to the Moon. As Nature reported, it’s been in orbit since late in March, and represents a joint effort from the UAE, who created one of the two lunar rovers, and the Japanese company ispace, who built the spacecraft. The Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency created the second lunar rover carried on the lander.

Its goal was to be the first private mission to land on the Moon. Instead, it’s more likely to be discussed in conjunction with a test flight of SpaceX’s Starship exploding, the full consequences of which are still being pieced together.

As reporter Tyler Gray wrote on Tuesday afternoon, “AMSAT radio operators tracking HAKUTO-R say they lost signal at the moment of expected touchdown.”

Chris Bergin of the spaceflight news site NSF, posted a series of updates on Twitter. At the point at which the lander was expected to touch down, Mission Control lost contact with it. The image that followed, of a room full of scientists with somber faces, spoke volumes.

The statement that followed noted that the team’s engineers were currently looking into the mission to see what had gone wrong with the landing. A statement from ispace addressed the ambiguity of the situation. “ispace engineers and mission operations specialists in the Mission Control Center are currently working to confirm the current status of the lander,” the company stated. “Further information on the status of the lander will be announced as it becomes available.”

The InsideHook Newsletter.

News, advice and insights for the most interesting person in the room.