The Japanese space startup ispace has ambitious space programs, including launching Japan's first-ever commercial lunar lander to the moon and embarking on a second lunar mission in 2023. The Tokyo-based company has been developing the Hakuto-9 lander for over a decade. It was initially expected to land on the moon last year via one of SpaceX's rockets, but that was postponed twice because of the Falcon 9 rocket's inspections.
On Sunday, Japan's ispace launched its first spacecraft mission to the moon with the SpaceX Falcon 9 in Florida. The rocket launched Japan's Hakuto-9 lunar lander and a small UAE rover without incident. Meanwhile, over 100 people were viewing the launch in Tokyo and cheering in applause. The ispace's Mission 1 is expected to undertake a four-month journey and land around the end of April. If the mission is successful, it'd be huge for the nation's space economy, and ispace would also become the first private company to land on the moon.
"This is the very, very beginning of a new era," said ispace founder and CEO Takeshi Hakamada. "I have 100% trust in our engineering team, they have been doing the right things to accomplish our successful landing on the lunar surface."
"I'm so happy. After repeated delays, it's good that we had a proper launch today," said Yuriko Takeda, a 28-year-old electronics worker who joined a launch party in Tokyo. "I have this image of the American flag from the Apollo landing, so while this is just the launch, the fact that it's a private company going there with a rover is a really meaningful step."
"We are starting small, but we hope that this small step will be eventually the starting point to reach our targets," said Hamad Al Marzooqi, project manager of the Emirates Lunar Mission at Dubai's Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC).