The crash of a private Japanese lunar lander was blamed on software, last-minute site switching

A company in Tokyo, the lunar lander crashed into the moon, said a software problem and a last-minute switch at the landing site led to the crash.

CAPE CANAVAL, Fla. — A private Japanese moon lander crashed while attempting to land on the lunar surface last month, company officials said Friday, blaming a software issue and a last-minute switch at the landing site.

The ispace spacecraft was originally supposed to land on a flat plain. But the target was changed to a crater before the December launch. The crater’s steep cliff apparently confused the on-board software, and the 7-foot (2-meter) spacecraft fell from a height of less than 3 miles (5 kilometers), crashing into the lunar surface.

The company’s chief technology officer, Ryo Oji, said the estimated velocity at impact was more than 300 feet (100 meters) per second.

NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter photographed the crash site the next day as it flew over it, revealing a field of debris as well as lunar soil that was thrown aside by the impact.

Augie said computer simulations conducted before the attempted landing did not include the topography of the new landing site.

CEO and founder Takeshi Hakamada said the company is still on track to attempt another lunar landing in 2024, and all lessons learned will be incorporated into the next attempt. A third landing attempt is planned for 2025.

Japan’s Hakuto named the White Rabbit, and the spacecraft and its experiments were insured, according to Hakamada. The United Arab Emirates had a small lunar module on board that was lost in the accident.

Two US companies have lunar landers awaiting launch later this year from Cape Canaveral, in partnership with NASA.


The Associated Press Health and Science section receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Science and Education Media group. AP is solely responsible for all content.

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