Japanese space startup ispace launches first commercial moon lander

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Japanese lunar robotic exploration startup company ispace has successfully launched the first privately funded moon lander aboard a SpaceX rocket on December 11, 2022.

ispace’s HAKUTO-R Mission 1 lifted off from Cape Canaveral, Florida, after postponing twice. Liftoff was initially scheduled earlier by two weeks but was delayed by SpaceX for further rocket checks.

The craft, designed to use minimal fuel and leave space for cargo, is expected to make a landing on the moon by the end of April 2023.

“This is the very, very beginning of a new era,” ispace founder and CEO Takeshi Hakamada told CNBC.

The ispace Mission 1 lander is carrying payloads which include a rover from the United Arab Emirates named Explorer Rashid, and a small two-wheeled robot for the Japanese space agency. 

ispace was founded more than 10 years ago, and began as a team competing for the Google Lunar Xprize under the name Hakuto, based on legendary Japanese folklore in Japan about a white rabbit that lives on the Moon.

The company hopes that the mission will be the first of many deliveries of government and commercial payloads.

Aljazeera reports that ispace currently has a contract with NASA to ferry payloads to the Moon from 2025, and it endeavors to construct a permanently staffed lunar colony by 2040.

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