Debris of Japan's Hakuto-R Lander Spotted by NASA's LRO

The crash site of the lander and its scattered parts on the lunar surface have been captured by NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, providing the first images of the location.

The moon has a reputation for being an inhospitable place for people, and occasionally even their machines. A new cemetery has been discovered by NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter as it hovers above the Moon: it is the location of the private Japanese project Hakuto-R's crash.

During its approach to landing in April of this year, the Japanese company ispace's spacecraft crashed on the moon as it descended from a height of 100 kilometres above the lunar surface. Before it crashed on the moon and dashed all hopes, the mission intended to land close to Atlas Crater.

Now that the lander and its components are scattered across the moon's surface, the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter has captured the first pictures of the crash scene. The now-destroyed spacecraft can be seen in a collection of ten pictures taken by the LRO.

The photographs were taken by the spacecraft's narrow-angle cameras, which covered an area measuring around 40 km by 45 km. According to NASA, the LRO Camera scientific team started looking for the lander using a picture taken prior to the landing attempt and discovered an odd surface alteration close to the intended landing site.

NASA’s statement

The images show at least four major chunks of debris from the crash. "This site will be further analyzed over the coming months as LRO has the opportunity to make additional observations of the site under various lighting conditions and viewing angles," Nasa said in a statement.

The Hakuto-R lander unexpectedly accelerated as it descended to the surface, according to telemetry from the spacecraft. In the final 100 km of its descent from orbit to the Moon's surface, it had to slow down from a speed of 6,000 kilometres per hour to zero.

Ryo Ujiie’s words

As its fuel supply was running low, the lander started to fall towards the surface instead of being slowed down for the landing approach by firing its thrusters. Chief Technology Officer Ryo Ujiie said during a press conference that it "apparently went into a free-fall towards the surface as it was running out of fuel to fire up its thrusters."

The spacecraft was launched on a SpaceX Falcon-9 rocket in December of last year and has been in lunar orbit for nearly a month.

The lander was intended to launch the four-wheeled "Rashid" Rover from the United Arab Emirates as well as a two-wheeled, baseball-sized rover that was created by JAXA, Tomy, and Sony Group.