A Japanese space startup said Wednesday its Moon lander may touch down on the celestial body as early as April 26, a move that would make it the first private company in the world to reach the Moon.
If successful, the touchdown by Ispace Inc.'s self-developed lander will also be the first by a private or public organization in Japan. Last year the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, or JAXA, failed to land its Omotenashi spacecraft on the Moon.
Under its Hakuto-R exploration program, Ispace launched the lander to test its descent technology and aims to maneuver the spacecraft from its Tokyo command center to touch down softly on the Moon's surface.
"I am looking forward to witnessing this historic day, marking the beginning of a new era of commercial lunar missions," Ispace founder and CEO Takeshi Hakamada said in a press release.
The lander took off from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida in the United States aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket in December.
In order to carry less fuel, the lander has taken a longer, energy-efficient route to reach the Moon, and at one point in January was about 1,376,000 kilometers away from Earth. The spacecraft entered the Moon's orbit in March.
The lander, about 2.3 meters in height and 2.6 meters in width, carries cargo, including a small transformable robot, chiefly developed by the JAXA and toy company Tomy Co.
If the mission goes as planned, the lander will touch down at around 1:40 a.m. on April 26, Japan Standard Time.
The first stage of the program is named after a white rabbit that, according to Japanese folklore, lives on the Moon.