Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) of NASA has spotted the remains of the Japanese private lunar lander Hakuto-R, which failed in its landing attempt last month. The probe, which also carried a small rover for the United Arab Emirates, made its landing attempt on April 25th.
However, communications with Hakuto-R were lost moments before the expected landing. The iSpace team subsequently confirmed that the lander did not safely touch down on the surface.
Possible impact site
On April 26th, the LRO immediately began searching for the remains of Hakuto-R. Acquiring 10 images with its Narrow Angle Cameras (NAC) around the presumed landing site, the scientific team of LRO started searching for the lost lander.
The images released by the team on May 23rd show at least four debris pieces and several small changes on the lunar surface at 47.581 degrees north latitude and 44.094 degrees east longitude. “The central element in the top image shows several bright pixels in the upper left and several dark pixels in the lower right. This is opposite to nearby rocks, suggesting that it could be a small crater or different parts of the lander’s body” reads their statement.
“This site will be further analyzed in the coming months as the LRO has the opportunity to image the site under various lighting and viewing geometries”. The US orbiter has also photographed the sites of previous failed landing attempts, including the 2019 attempt by the Israeli spacecraft Beresheet.
In the event of success, iSpace’s Hakuto-R would have become the first private spacecraft and the first vehicle built in Japan to land on the Moon. Despite the failure, the Japanese company is already working to return to the Moon and attempt lunar landing again. The company is working on its second and third lunar missions, with the goal of launching them in 2024 and 2025, respectively.