NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) spacecraft captured images of the seemingly destroyed crash site of Japan’s first civilian lunar lander, the ill-fated HAKUTO-R mission.
This lunar lander from ispace, which plans to land on the moon with private funds, was launched on December 11, 2022.
After several months of travel to the Moon, the spacecraft began a controlled descent to the surface and landed near Atlas Crater. The ispace team announced on April 26 that the lunar lander HAKUTO-R Mission 1 experienced an anomaly and could not safely land on the moon.
On April 26, NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) spacecraft captured 10 images around its landing site with its narrow-angle camera. The image covered an area of approximately 40 km by 45 km. NASA reports that the LRO camera science team began searching for the lander using images acquired before the landing attempt.
From temporal image pairs, the LRO camera team identified anomalous surface changes near the nominal landing site. The image shows at least four prominent pieces and some minor changes (47.581 degrees N, 44.094 degrees E).
The central feature in the image above shows some bright pixels in the upper left corner and some darker pixels in the lower right corner. This is in contrast to nearby rocks, suggesting it could be a small crater or another part of the lander’s body. The site will be analyzed further in the coming months, as the LRO will have the opportunity to make additional observations under different lighting conditions and viewing angles.