Japan's Hakuto-R spacecraft is preparing to make a historic lunar landing attempt on April 25.
Alternative landing dates are April 26, May 1 and May 3, according to a statement from the spacecraft's developer ispace, which was published on Wednesday (April 12).
The Hakuto-R spacecraft launched in December 2022 atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. The probe is currently in an elliptical lunar orbit, seeing it approach as close as 62 miles (100 kilometers) to the lunar surface, and heading as far away as 1,430 miles (2,300 km). From there, the spacecraft has already snapped some stunning images.
The landing attempt will see the lander perform a braking burn when at its closest approach, firing its main propulsion system to decelerate from orbit, according to the statement. "Utilizing a series of pre-set commands, the lander will adjust its attitude and reduce velocity in order to make a soft landing on the lunar surface. The process will take approximately one hour."
Additionally, ispace is planning to livestream the landing from mission control in Tokyo, allowing followers to track the landing in near real time.
The primary landing site is Atlas Crater, located at the southeastern outer edge of Mare Frigoris ("Sea of Cold"), according to earlier statements.
We've got the moon in our sights! The Canadensys multi-camera AI-enabled lunar 360-degree imaging system is in lunar orbit aboard the Japanese ispace lander and has collected spectacular images of our Moon. Read more on our website: [https://t.co/CE4IERJM3q] pic.twitter.com/Qm3QEs71xXMarch 29, 2023
If successful, Hakuto-R will be the first privately operated spacecraft to land safely on the moon. The spacecraft also carries the tiny Rashid rover for the United Arab Emirates' space agency. Success would make Japan only the fourth country to soft-land on the moon, after the United States, Soviet Union and China.
A multi-camera, AI-enabled lunar 360-degree imaging system aboard Hakuto-R developed by Canadensys Aerospace has also recently imaged the moon.
Hakuto-R is just the first step for ispace, which also was listed on the Tokyo Stock Exchange Growth Market on April 12.
The company is already working on its second and third moon missions, targeting launches in 2024 and 2025 respectively.
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Andrew is a freelance space journalist with a focus on reporting on China's rapidly growing space sector. He began writing for Space.com 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.