SpaceX will launch the Japanese rover and the UAE rover on November 28.

Japanese private lunar rover claims to go down in history.

On November 28, ispace’s Hakuto-R lander from Tokyo is scheduled to launch to the lunar crater Atlas in preparation for a soft landing that could be the first ever private company on the lunar surface.

Hakuto-R will launch on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from the Space Force Station at Cape Canaveral in Florida and will arrive on the moon no earlier than April 2023. After landing, Hakuto-R will deploy a small rover from the United Arab Emirates called Rashid. The four-wheeled rover will study the Moon for 14 Earth days using a high-resolution camera, a thermal imager, a microscope and a probe designed to study electrical charges on the lunar surface.

However, it is unclear whether Hakuto-R will be the first private enterprise to soft-land on the moon. NASA has directed Intuitive Machines to launch its Nova-C lunar lander scheduled for March 2023, with the Astrobotic Peregrine lunar lander launching in the first quarter of 2023, according to Spaceflight Now’s launch calendar. (will open in a new tab). At this early stage, it’s hard to tell which of these companies will land first.

“Our first mission will lay the foundation for unlocking the potential of the Moon and turning it into a robust and dynamic economic system,” said Takeshi Hakamada, Founder and CEO of ispace. (will open in a new tab) Thursday (November 17), one day after NASA launched its Artemis lunar program with the successful launch of the unmanned Artemis 1 spacecraft to the moon.

RELATED: Artemis lunar program will advance science and private spaceflight, NASA says

Landing safely on the moon is difficult, especially for private companies that don’t have the resources of a national government. For example, SpaceIL’s privately funded Beresheet lander crashed during a landing attempt. 2019. However, a new era is dawning as small commercial landers swarm the Moon to pave the way for future human landings.

NASA’s Artemis program is supporting the fleets of companies such as ispace, Astrobotic and Intuitive Machines through the Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) program, which will bring even more robotic missions to the surface over the next decade. (Hakuto-R is not supported by CLPS, but NASA has assigned ispace partner Draper to lead the team in a daring landing on the far side of the Moon, due no earlier than 2025.)

Related: Private Moon Landers May Need More Clients Than NASA Only

Hakuto-R’s main landing site, Atlas Crater, is in the northeast quadrant of the Moon near Mare Frigoris (“Sea of ​​Cold”). The site was chosen to “retain flexibility during operations,” ispace said, but the company did not provide many details other than that the site allows for “many contingencies” during the long transit phase of the mission.

“Careful consideration of the target criteria included continuous sunlight duration and visibility of communication from Earth,” ispace wrote. “Alternative landing targets include Lacus Somniorum, Sinus Iridium, and Oceanus Procellarum, among others.”

Estimated milestones for the Hakuto-R space mission as of November 2022. (Click to enlarge.) (Image credit: ispace)

“Hakuto”, which means “white rabbit” in Japanese, was the name of the ispace-run team to compete in the Google Lunar X-Prize (GLXP). GLXP offered $20 million to the first private group to be able to land on the moon and complete multiple tasks, but ended in 2018 with no winner taking the prize.

Hakuto-R (“R” stands for “reboot”) was originally scheduled to land on the moon in 2021, but was delayed due to technical issues and other reasons. The company aims to eventually enable human settlement using lunar water ice that can be mined locally.

Elizabeth Howell is co-author of Why Am I Taller? (will open in a new tab)? (ECW Press, 2022; with Canadian astronaut Dave Williams), space medicine book. Follow her on Twitter @howellspace. (will open in a new tab). Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom (will open in a new tab) or facebook (will open in a new tab).

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