NASA’s lunar orbiter found debris from the failed Japanese landing

NASA has released new photos that appear to show the broken remains of the Japanese Hakuto lander that crashed on the lunar surface during a failed mission last month.

Organized by a Tokyo-based lunar research startup, the Hakuto-R Mission 1 lunar lander was launched in December 2022 with the goal of becoming the first privately funded spacecraft to land and operate on the lunar surface.

But after several months in space, an anomaly occurred in the final moments before the spacecraft’s scheduled landing. Since all contact was lost, it was unclear exactly how and where it landed on the moon, but recent pictures taken by NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) appear to shed new light on the incident.

LRO captured 10 images around the planned landing site using its narrow-angle cameras, according to NASA. By comparing before and after images, the team was able to identify debris from the failed Hakuto landing that was spread over a wide area. NASA noted them in one of the images below.

Possible space landing debris that fell on the moon.
NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University

“The image shows at least four prominent pieces of debris and some minor changes,” NASA said.

It added that the crash site will be analyzed in more detail in the coming months using additional LRO images captured in different lighting and viewing geometries.

The main objective of the space mission was to place two small rovers on the lunar surface and to more broadly demonstrate its ability to successfully land on the lunar surface.

Despite the effort’s disappointing end, ispace said it was able to acquire valuable data for the entire mission up until the very last moment, and will use the knowledge it gained to try again with a similar mission as part of its work to advance the effort. in space development by the private sector.

NASA is spending several billion dollars on contracts with private companies to develop landers that can deliver cargo to the lunar surface as part of its Artemis program.

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