June 16, 2024

At the China International Aviation and Aerospace Exhibition, also known as Airshow China, in Zhuhai, Guangdong province, China, a display of the Zhurong, a model of the Chinese Mars rover, which is part of China's Tianwen-1 space mission, can be seen. Source: Reuters

China and Japan are investigating the perplexing circumstances surrounding the disappearance of space equipment, including a lunar lander that was intended to complete Japan’s first successful moon landing.

Tokyo-based Ispace said it lost contact with a lander bound for the moon, and the craft, which did not have anyone on board, likely crashed, a big setback for the company’s efforts in space transportation and Japan’s push into the cosmos more broadly.

Takeshi Hakamanda, founder and CEO of Japanese spaceflight company Ispace, stated that there is a strong likelihood that the lander made a hard landing on the moon’s surface. The company later clarified that engineers had noticed that the remaining propellant in the Hakuto-R spacecraft may have been “at the lower threshold, and shortly afterward the descent speed rapidly increased,” as reported by The New York Times.

Japanese Private Spacecraft Fails

The craft was launched in December and took a more energy-efficient path to the moon, arriving in lunar orbit in March. Ispace would have been the first private company to complete a lunar landing if all had gone according to plan. The company’s conclusion was drawn from the loss of communication with the spacecraft. An investigation is underway to determine why the craft seemingly miscalculated the altitude, as analysis suggests that the lander remained at a high altitude when it should have already landed on the surface.

Ryo Ujiie, chief technology officer of Ispace Inc., left, Takeshi Hakamada, founder and chief executive officer, center, and Jumpei Nozaki, chief financial officer, during a news conference in Tokyo on Wednesday, April 26, 2023. Source: Getty Images.

Despite the setback, Hakamada expressed pride in the team’s efforts and was not disappointed, adding that the company can use the lessons learned from the failure to enhance the chances of success in its next two missions.

For the past 50 years,  there are different theories about the moon landing. As of now, only three countries have successfully landed spacecraft on the Moon: the United States, the former Soviet Union, and China.

The United States’ Apollo program sent astronauts to the Moon in six separate missions between 1969 and 1972. The Soviet Union’s Luna program was the first to achieve a soft landing on the Moon in 1966, and they followed it up with a series of robotic missions to the lunar surface.

More recently, China’s Chang’e program successfully landed a rover on the Moon in 2013, and in 2019, it became the first country to land on the far side of the Moon. In May 2021, China’s Tianwen-1 mission successfully landed its rover on Mars, marking a significant milestone in China’s space exploration efforts.

The Moon Landing Conspiracy

The Moon landing conspiracy is a theory that alleges that the United States government faked the 1969 Apollo 11 Moon landing, along with subsequent Moon landings. The conspiracy theorists believe that the government was motivated to create a fake Moon landing to win the Space Race with the Soviet Union during the Cold War, or to distract the American public from domestic issues like the Vietnam War.

Many people still believe in the Moon landing conspiracy theory, and it has been a subject of discussion and debate for many years.