Today, Sunday, Japan launches the first spacecraft to the moon from Cape Canaveral, Florida, USA.
Japanese private startup iSpace is scheduled to launch Hakuto-R from Cape Canaveral at 0738 GMT, after being delayed twice due to inspections of the SpaceX9 rocket carrying the vehicle.
The iSpace craft aims to put a small NASA satellite into orbit around the moon to search for water deposits before it descends into the Atlas crater. The M1 lander will deploy the UAE’s four-wheeled Rashid Explorer, two robotic probes and a two-wheeled device the size of a baseball from Japan’s space agency.
The national space agencies of the United States, Russia and China have landed on the moon in the past 50 years, but no company has done so.
The success of the mission would also be a milestone in space cooperation between Japan and the United States at a time when China has become increasingly competitive in space and the use of Russian rockets to launch spacecraft has become unavailable in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
On Friday, billionaire Yusaku Maezawa revealed the eight crew members he hopes to make the trip to the moon as soon as next year.
The name Hakuto refers to the white rabbit who lives on the moon in Japanese folklore.
Next year is the year of the rabbit in the Asian calendar. The vehicle, which was assembled in Germany, is expected to land on the moon in late April.