The Japanese space agency gives up the landing of the lunar probe

Japan’s space agency said Tuesday it had abandoned landing the country’s ultra-small spacecraft on the moon after communications with the lander failed to stabilize following its launch last week.

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency said the Omotenashi lander could not receive transmissions from Earth to correct its trajectory and position because its solar panels remained facing away from the sun. Attempts to correct its position and orbit have also been unsuccessful, the agency said.

Tatsuaki Hashimoto, a professor at JAXA, described the development as “failure beyond failure” at a press conference following the decision not to land on the moon.

The development cost of the probe was 800 million yen, he said.

JAXA hoped the boxy lander, measuring 11 centimeters long, 24 centimeters wide and 37 centimeters high and weighing 12.6 kilograms, would become the country’s first probe to land on the lunar surface.

Touted as the world’s smallest lunar lander, the Omotenashi was launched Wednesday from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida using the US’s Megarocket Space Launch System.

After launch, the lander successfully separated from the rocket and began its journey towards the moon.

But its solar cells didn’t work because its body rotated away from the Sun once every four to five seconds, which is eight times faster than the assumed limit.

Waiting for solar cells to recover Tuesday or later would have meant missing an opportunity to enter lunar orbit and land on the moon, the agency said.


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