The tiny Japanese lunar rover will still not reach the lunar surface.
The trackers of the OMOTENASHI lunar spacecraft, along with NASA’s Artemis 1 mission, which launched Nov. 16, failed to pick up the cubesat’s wobbly signal in time for its scheduled moon landing, Japanese officials said on Twitter.
“Communication with the spacecraft could not be established and it was determined that the lunar landing maneuver (DV2) operation could not be performed,” the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) tweeted. (will open in a new tab) on Monday (November 21). (Translation provided by Google.)
OMOTENASHI and nine other cubesats separated from the Artemis 1 Space Launch System rocket shortly after launch. The tiny Japanese craft was spotted in space on Sunday (November 20) and on Monday, JAXA added, giving hope it could be rerouted to a new mission around March 2023 when communications conditions could improve.
Pictured: Amazing views of the debut of NASA’s Artemis 1 lunar rocket
At the same time, the investigation continues to find out why the small probe could not be stopped in time. Initial reports from the ground station suggested that the cubesat’s solar arrays were not facing the sun and that it was spinning rapidly. The team tried to fix this by releasing some propellant to counteract the movement, they tweeted. (will open in a new tab)but “insufficient voltage” forced the crew to turn off the transmitter.
The spacecraft, whose name is short for “Outstanding Lunar Exploration Technology Demonstrated by Semi-Rigid Impactor NAno”, was originally expected to make a hard landing from 328 to 626 feet (100 to 200 meters) above the lunar surface. (The daring dive had to be cushioned by airbags and a cushioning system in order for the spacecraft to survive the attempt.)
But now the cubesat is drifting alone in deep space, and over the next few months, the orbital dynamics between Earth and OMOTENASHI (along with sunlight conditions relative to the spacecraft’s out-of-control position) are not conducive to attempting a new mission. But those doors could open in the spring, the mission added on Twitter.
Related: Japanese rovers capture stunning views of asteroid Ryugu (video)
(Image credit: United Launch Alliance)
“Cubsat,” wrote a mission official in Japanese. (will open in a new tab), “flies past the moon, approaches the earth once, and then breaks out of the earth’s sphere of gravity.” In March, the spacecraft’s rotation (assuming it remains constant) should better align with the sun, allowing it to draw more power from solar radiation.
“We plan to resume research operations around this time, and once communication with the spacecraft is established, we would like to conduct tests that can be carried out in orbit,” mission officials said. (will open in a new tab). They added that the tests will focus on tools that will enable small spacecraft to explore remote places in the future. (will open in a new tab)but there is little other information on twitter.
Although this Japanese moon landing did not go according to plan, the country was successful on the asteroid with Hayabusa2. Between the main sample return mission, two twin rovers crashed to the surface of the asteroid Ryugu in 2018 and examined it, sending footage as they jumped. However, OMOTENASHI was supposed to be the country’s first lunar lander.
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).