Tokyo-based Space Startup Plans World-first Moon Landing

Courtesy of ispace Inc.
An artist’s rendering shows ispace Inc.’s lunar lander flying in space.

A moon lander operated by Tokyo-based ispace Inc. will attempt to land on the moon at around 1:40 a.m. Japan Time on April 26 at the earliest, the startup has announced.

If successful, the space company’s lander would become the world’s first private sector lunar module to land on the moon.

Since blasting off in December atop a U.S. rocket, the lander has flown 1.37 million kilometers from Earth. It entered the moon’s orbit in March and has been preparing for landing.

On April 26, the lander will begin descending from an altitude of 100 kilometers above the moon at around 12:40 a.m., taking about one hour to land on Atlas, an 87-kilometer-wide crater in the moon’s northern hemisphere, according to the startup’s announcement Wednesday.

The lander is loaded with seven items, including a United Arab Emirates space rover and an exploratory robot for which development was led by toy maker Tomy Co.

Also on Wednesday, ispace was listed on the Tokyo Stock Exchange’s Growth Market as the first listing on the market by a space startup. “If our spacecraft can land on the moon, it will be a boost to business that takes advantage of the lunar surface,” said chief executive officer Takeshi Hakamada during a press conference.

In addition to ispace, several U.S. companies are planning to launch landers for the moon. In 2019, a spacecraft sent up by an Israeli organization aimed for touchdown, only to be unsuccessful due to engine failure just before landing.