A Japanese company lost contact with its spacecraft moments before touchdown on the moon – and said the mission has apparently failed.
Communications stopped as the lander descended the final 33 feet, travelling at about 16mph.
Flight controllers peered at their screens in Tokyo, expressionless, as the minutes went by with no word from the lander, which is presumed to have crashed.
“We have to assume that we could not complete the landing on the lunar surface,” said Takeshi Hakamada, founder and CEO of the company, ispace.
Only three governments have successfully touched down on the moon: Russia, the United States and China.
An Israeli nonprofit tried to land on the moon in 2019 but its spacecraft was destroyed on impact.
The 7-foot Japanese lander carried a mini lunar rover for the United Arab Emirates and a toylike robot from Japan designed to roll around in the moon dust.
There were also items from private customers on board.
Named Hakuto – Japanese for white rabbit – the spacecraft targeted the Atlas crater in the north-eastern section of the moon’s near side, more than 50 miles across and just over a mile deep.
Hakuto took a long, roundabout route to the moon after its December liftoff, beaming back photographs of Earth along the way.