After an initial review of the data from the HAKUTO-R Mission 1 lunar lander, ispace stated that as the lander was on final approach the “descent speed rapidly increased” after “the estimated remaining propellant reached at the lower threshold.” This resulted in a “hard landing,” essentially a crash landing.
ispace also stated that they “confirmed that the lander was in a vertical position as it carried out the final approach to the lunar surface.” Once they ascertained the lander was low on fuel and descended rapidly to the Moon’s surface, communication was lost. They further stated that “based on this, it has been determined that there is a high probability that the lander eventually made a hard landing on the Moon’s surface.”
This is their preliminary read of the situation based on the data. ispace also stated that “to find the root cause of this situation, ispace engineers are currently working on a detailed analysis of the telemetry date acquired until the end of landing sequence and will clarify the details after completing the analysis.”
If running out of fuel was the root cause of the failure to land, it’s an issue that can be addressed for their future missions. What we still don’t know is whether the lander would have safely touched down if it had enough fuel. However, having accomplished 8 of their 10 milestones, ispace engineers have a lot of data that will help them in planning their next mission for next year.
The 10 milestones were:
- Completion of launch preparations
- Completion of launch and deployment
- Establishment of a Steady Operation Status
- Completion of the first orbital control maneuver
- Completion of stable deep-space flight operations for one month
- Completion of all deep space orbital control maneuvers before lunar orbit insertion
- Reaching the lunar gravitational field, lunar orbit
- Completion of all orbit control maneuvers in lunar orbit
- Completion of lunar landing: Complete the landing sequences, verifying key landing abilities for future missions.
- Establishment of a steady system state after lunar landing – Establish a steady telecommunication and power supply on the lunar surface after landing to support customer payloads’ surface operations.
Canadensys Aerospace and Mission Control Space Services both put out statements after the failure.
In a tweet Canadensys Aerospace said “We thank ispace for their support and partnership on their first mission and all their M1 accomplishments to date. We are grateful to have proven out our lunar imaging systems including spectacular imagery gathered in the Moon’s orbit.”
In their own Tweet Mission Control Space Services stated:
“Mission Control was proud and honoured to have been a part of ispace inc’s HAKUTO-R attempted lunar landing today. While a soft landing was not completed successfully our team is delighted to have been the first organization in the world to deploy a deep-learning Artificial Intelligence (AI) in lunar orbit.”
“As pioneers in AI technology and space exploration, we know the risks involved and are continuing to push the boundaries of innovation and advancing humanity’s understanding of the cosmos. We are inspired by the vision of a world in which access to space is ubiquitous and inspires all humans to treasure planet Earth and marvel at the universe. While we have yet to demonstrate AI on the lunar surface we remain leaders in deploying AI algorithms on the edge of space.”
“We would like to thank all our partners and employees who worked diligently to be prepared to execute a world’s first for AI and exploration. Mission Control is fully committed to accelerating space exploration on a global scale through our innovative products and services. We remain steadfast in our mission to push boundaries and break new ground, and we are continuously speeding up our efforts to make this vision a reality.”
April 25, 2023