Why it matters: Learning and improving.
A review of the data found that the software guiding the descent appeared to lose track of the lander’s altitude when it passed the crater rim on the moon’s surface, about two miles above the surrounding terrain.
The software erroneously determined that the sensor was malfunctioning and actually refused to give a correct altitude measurement.
The engine, altimeter, and other hardware are in good working order, indicating the soundness of the spacecraft’s overall design. A software fix is easier to complete than a major hardware overhaul.
Ryo Ujiie, Ispace’s chief technology officer, said at a press conference on Friday that this was not a hardware failure. No hardware changes are required.
However, the failure pointed to flaws in the Ispaces test of spacecraft landing software developed by the Draper Research Institute in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
The decision to change the landing site after the spacecraft design was finalized in early 2021 most likely contributed to the crash.
Initially, Ispace officials chose the flat plains of Lacus Somniorum as the landing site. But they decided that Atlas, an impact crater more than 80 miles wide, was a more interesting destination.
This means that the landing software wasn’t designed to handle altitude changes as the spacecraft passed over the crater rim, and the simulation didn’t miss that oversight.
NASA released images taken by its lunar reconnaissance probe on Tuesday that appear to show the crash site.
Background: Bumpy Road to the Moon.
In recent years, a mix of private companies, groups and government space agencies have attempted to return to the Moon. But landing on the moon turned out to be more difficult than many expected.
The Beresheet lander, developed by the Israeli non-profit SpaceIL, launched to the Moon in 2019 but crashed. In the same year, the Indian Space Research Organization also attempted to land a lunar probe, and its Vikram also crashed.
Only China has recently landed a robotic spacecraft on the moon, with three successful attempts in the past decade.
Next steps: Try it, try it again.
Ispace founder and CEO Takeshi Hakamada said the company will schedule two next missions using a nearly identical lander next year and a large spacecraft to the far side of the moon in 2025. said little has changed.
We have a very clear picture of how to improve future missions, Hakamada said.
Hakamada said the financial impact on the company would be small as Isspace has insurance for the lander.
More spacecraft will be launched to the moon later this year. As part of a NASA program that employs private companies to bring scientific instruments to the moon, Pittsburgh’s Astrobotic Technologies and Houston’s Intuitive Machines will send spacecraft to the moon later this year.
The Indian Space Agency announced this week that Chandrayaan 3, the follow-up to its 2019 lunar landing program, could launch as early as July 12.
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