NASA has released new images that appear to show the broken remains of the Hakuto lander from Japanwhich crashed on the lunar surface in a failed mission last month.
Hosted by Tokyo-based lunar exploration startup ispace, the Hakuto-R Mission 1 lunar lander launched in December 2022 with the goal of becoming the first privately funded spacecraft to land and operate on the moon surface.
But after several months in space, an anomaly occurred in the final moments before the spacecraft’s scheduled landing. With all contact lost, how and exactly where the lander impacted the moon remained unclear, but images recently captured by NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) appear to have shed new light on the case.
LRO captured 10 images around the planned landing site using its narrow-angle cameras, according to NASA. By comparing before and after images, a team was able to pick out what appear to be fragments of the failed Hakuto lander spread over a great distance. NASA marked them in one of the images, shown below:
“The image shows at least four prominent pieces of debris and several small changes,” NASA said.
He added that the crash site will be analyzed in greater detail in the coming months using additional LRO images that will be captured in different lighting and viewing geometries.
The primary goal of the ispace mission was to deploy two small rovers to the lunar surface and, more broadly, to demonstrate their ability to successfully place a lander on the lunar surface.
Despite the disappointing end to the effort, ispace said it was able to acquire valuable data for the entire mission right up to the final moment, and will use the knowledge it gained to try again with a similar mission as part of its work to advance industry efforts. private in spatial development.
NASA is spending several billion dollars on contracts with private companies to develop landers capable of delivering cargo to the lunar surface as part of its Artemis program.