Hakuto-R Spacecraft Captures Stunning Earthrise Image During Solar Eclipse

The Hakuto-R spacecraft, a lunar lander from Tokyo-based commercial company ispace, has captured a beautiful “Earthrise”-like image while orbiting the Moon. The photo, taken during the April 20 solar eclipse, shows the shadow of the Moon passing above Australia, where totality was visible. The spacecraft was approximately 100 km (60 miles) above the lunar surface when it took the photo, showcasing the lander-mounted camera’s abilities.

Early Landing Targeted for Hakuto-R

The Hakuto-R mission is gearing up for its landing on the Moon, with a targeted date of April 25 at 16:40 (UTC)/12:40 (EST). However, this could change depending on how the checkouts proceed. The landing is a significant milestone for ispace, which aims to become the first commercial company to have an uncrewed lunar lander touch down safely on the Moon. Originally designed for the Google Lunar XPrize, Hakuto-R launched on Dec. 11, 2022, along with the Lunar Flashlight mission on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.

Hakuto-R’s Journey to Lunar Orbit

The launch trajectory for Hakuto-R took the spacecraft on a journey approximately 1.4 million km (879,000 miles) into deep space before it successfully entered lunar orbit on March 21, 2023, after a several-minute controlled burn. The ispace Series 1 Lunar Lander stands about 2.3 meters tall (7.5 ft) and has four landing legs. Fully fueled with its payload, it weighs roughly 1000 kg (2,200 lbs) and is powered by solar panels. The main body is an octagonal prism, 1.64 meters high and about 1.6 meters across its widest diameter, with one main landing thruster and six assist thrusters.

Future Lunar Landers and Satellites

ispace is already planning a second lunar lander mission, possibly in 2024, depending on the success of this first mission. In addition to launching lunar landers, the company aims to one day deploy satellites around the Moon. ispace says it is negotiating with multiple companies for transporting payloads to the lunar surface, as well as carrying payloads to orbit around the Moon.

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