Private Japanese moon lander sends home stunning image from lunar orbit

A photograph of the lunar surface taken by the Hakuto-R moon lander built and operated by Japanese company ispace. (Image credit: ispace)

A private Japanese lander has returned a stunning fresh image of the moon. 

The Hakuto-R spacecraft snapped the image of a sunlit section of the moon following its arrival in lunar orbit on March 20. The image was taken by a lander-mounted camera and shared by the Twitter account of Japanese company ispace, which developed the spacecraft. 

The image shows a range of brightly lit impact craters on the lunar surface against the dark backdrop of space. It also shows partially shadowed craters on the lunar limb, or edge of the moon's visible disc. 

Related: Private Japanese moon lander reaches lunar orbit

Hakuto-R launched on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket on Dec. 11, 2022, taking an elongated, highly energy-efficient route to the moon. The spacecraft is expected to make its attempt to land safely on the moon around the end of April, if all proceeds according to plan.

If successful, the lander will make Japan only the fourth country to have a spacecraft soft land on the moon, after the United States, Soviet Union and China. 

It would also be a historic first landing on the moon by a privately operated spacecraft. Hakuto-R also carries the tiny Rashid rover for the United Arab Emirates' space agency.

India, with the Chandrayaan 2 lander, and Israeli company SpaceIL, with Beresheet, both failed with lunar landing attempts in 2019.

Ispace promised in its tweet that more stunning views are to come as it prepares for its landing attempt. The company is also working on its second and third missions, targeting launches in 2024 and 2025 respectively. 

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Andrew Jones
Contributing Writer

Andrew is a freelance space journalist with a focus on reporting on China's rapidly growing space sector. He began writing for in 2019 and writes for SpaceNews, IEEE Spectrum, National Geographic, Sky & Telescope, New Scientist and others. Andrew first caught the space bug when, as a youngster, he saw Voyager images of other worlds in our solar system for the first time. Away from space, Andrew enjoys trail running in the forests of Finland. You can follow him on Twitter @AJ_FI.