The Japanese lunar lander Hakuto-R, which plummeted on the moon’s surface on April 25, has been detected by a NASA spacecraft. Photographic evidence verifies that the craft came to rest in at least four large fragments near its intended landing site.
Hakuto-R, conceived by the Japanese space corporation ispace, was intended to be the first private lunar lander to successfully arrive on the moon, but it abruptly lost contact with ground control during its final descent. After several unsuccessful attempts to reestablish communication, ispace’s crew concluded that the spacecraft had suffered a “hard landing,” crashing into the moon rather than landing softly.
NASA finds broken fragments of Japanese lunar lander that lost on April 25.
The following day, April 26, the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) of NASA flew over Hakuto-R’s landing site and captured 10 images. Scientists compared these images to previous photographs of the region in an effort to determine the final resting place of the Japanese lander.
Using the LRO Camera, the team detected a “unusual surface change” near Hakuto-R’s intended landing site, according to a statement from researchers. Four large fragments of debris are visible in images taken on April 26 that were not present in earlier images, indicating that they are likely elements of the lander and not boulders or other natural features, according to the researchers. In addition, images depict what appears to be a new, minor crater near the presumed impact site.
This is not the first impact site observed by LRO in transit. In 2019, it also discovered the remains of India’s Chandrayaan 2 Vikram lander and the private Israeli lander Beresheet, which may have delivered the first tardigrades to the moon by accident.
Over the next few months, researchers will continue to analyze the site as LRO makes another pass and has the opportunity to photograph the site from various angles and illumination conditions.