The smallest lunar lander to date will not make a touchdown after all on the moon.

artemis 1's tiny japanese probe abandons moon landing try
artemis 1's tiny japanese probe abandons moon landing try
A rendering of the Japanese lunar lander OMOTENASHI above the lunar surface. (Image credit: JAXA)

A tiny Japanese moon lander won’t make it to the lunar surface after all.

Trackers of the OMOTENASHI moon spacecraft, a rideshare with NASA’s Artemis 1 mission that launched on Nov. 16, failed to pick up the cubesat’s wobbly signal in time for its planned lunar landing, Japanese officials said on Twitter.

“Communication with the spacecraft could not be established, and it was determined that the lunar landing maneuver (DV2) operation could not be performed,” the Japan Aerospace and Exploration Agency (JAXA) tweeted (opens in new tab) on Monday (Nov. 21). (Translation provided by Google.)

OMOTENASHI and nine other cubesats separated from the Artemis 1 Space Launch System rocket shortly after launch. The tiny Japanese flyer was spotted in space on Sunday (Nov. 20) and Monday, JAXA added, giving hope that it can be redirected to a new mission around March 2023, when communication conditions may improve. 

In photos: Amazing views of NASA’s Artemis 1 moon rocket debut 

In the meantime, an investigation is ongoing to find out why the little probe couldn’t be hailed in time. Initial communications from a ground station suggested that the cubesat’s solar cells were not facing the sun and it was rotating swiftly. The team tried to correct this by venting some fuel to counteract the movement, they wrote on Twitter (opens in new tab), but “insufficient voltage” forced the team to turn off the transmitter.

The spacecraft, whose name is short for “Outstanding MOon exploration Technologies demonstrated by NAno Semi-Hard Impactor,” was originally expected to attempt a hard landing from an altitude of 328 to 626 feet (100 to 200 meters) above the lunar surface. (The daring dive would have been cushioned with airbags and a shock absorption system to allow the spacecraft to survive the attempt.)

But now the cubesat is drifting alone in deep space, and for the next few months orbital dynamics between Earth and OMOTENASHI (along with sunlight conditions relative to the spacecraft’s uncontrolled position) are not favorable to attempt a new mission. But those doors could open in the spring, mission officials added via Twitter.

artemis 1's tiny japanese probe abandons moon landing try

NASA’s Artemis 1 mission successfully launched on Nov. 16, 2022 with 10 cubesats aboard, including a tiny Japanese lunar lander. (Image credit: United Launch Alliance)

The cubesat, mission officials wrote in Japanese (opens in new tab), “will fly by the moon, approach the Earth once, and then escape from the Earth’s gravitational sphere.” In March, the rotation of the spacecraft (assuming it remains consistent) should better align with the sun, allowing it to pull more power from solar radiation.

“We plan to resume exploration operations around that time, and once communication with the spacecraft is established, we would like to conduct tests that can be carried out in orbit,” mission officials said (opens in new tab). The tests will focus on tools to let small spacecraft explore far-out destinations in the future, they added (opens in new tab), but little other information is available from the tweet thread.

While this Japanese landing on the moon didn’t go to plan, the country did have success on an asteroid with Hayabusa2. In between the main sample-return mission, two near-twin rovers dropped onto the surface of the asteroid Ryugu in 2018 and explored, sending out footage as they hopped. OMOTENASHI would have been the country’s first lunar lander, however.

Elizabeth Howell is the co-author of “Why Am I Taller (opens in new tab)?” (ECW Press, 2022; with Canadian astronaut Dave Williams), a book about space medicine. Follow her on Twitter @howellspace (opens in new tab). Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom (opens in new tab) or Facebook (opens in new tab).

TECH NEWS RELATED

Large mammals disappear from the Eifel region 11,000 years ago as a result of increasing forestation

Drill rig in action: Sediment cores are obtained in a dry maar near Schalkenmehren as part of the ELSA project. Sediment cores from Eifel maars provide information on the development of ice-age large mammals in Central Europe during the past 60,000 years / Overkill hypothesis not confirmed For tens ...

View more: Large mammals disappear from the Eifel region 11,000 years ago as a result of increasing forestation

We gave ChatGPT a college-level microbiology quiz. It blew the quiz away.

You wouldn’t know it from interacting with Siri or those technical-support, call-center robots, but artificial intelligence has made some incredible advances in a short amount of time. Earlier this year, the tech world was abuzz with various generative AI programs that could, on command, create entirely new, never-before-existing images ...

View more: We gave ChatGPT a college-level microbiology quiz. It blew the quiz away.

Unexpected Kilonova Discovery: Colossal Explosion Challenges Our Understanding of Gamma-Ray Bursts

This artist’s impression shows a kilonova produced by two colliding neutron stars. While studying the aftermath of a long gamma-ray burst (GRB), two independent teams of astronomers using a host of telescopes in space and on Earth, including the Gemini North telescope on Hawai‘i and the Gemini South telescope ...

View more: Unexpected Kilonova Discovery: Colossal Explosion Challenges Our Understanding of Gamma-Ray Bursts

3 Technical Accelerators for Space Domain Awareness

Transform space traffic management and empower strategic missions The race is on to develop space capabilities for a growing array of national security, civil, and commercial priorities. With the satellite population expected to reach as many as 100,000 assets by the end of the decade, the challenge of keeping ...

View more: 3 Technical Accelerators for Space Domain Awareness

NASA astronaut Stan Love on the digital-age Artemis cockpit inside the Orion spacecraft

"We're going to do everything faster and more accurately. And it's going to make spaceflight much, much safer and less error prone."

View more: NASA astronaut Stan Love on the digital-age Artemis cockpit inside the Orion spacecraft

Astrobotic lander undergoes tests ahead of launch

WASHINGTON — Astrobotic’s first lunar lander has passed a key set of acceptance tests, keeping the spacecraft on schedule for a launch in early 2023. The company announced Dec. 8 that its Peregrine lander completed vibration and acoustics testing at a commercial facility on New York’s Long Island. The ...

View more: Astrobotic lander undergoes tests ahead of launch

Ghostly light in galaxy clusters revealed by Webb

The darkness you see here is the ghostly light in galaxy clusters, in this case in a cluster called SMACS-J0723.3-7327, located some 4 billion light-years away. The Webb telescope captured it with its Near Infrared Camera (NIRCAM). And a team at the Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias processed the ...

View more: Ghostly light in galaxy clusters revealed by Webb

The Orville started as a spoof, but it has evolved into so much more

The Orville might have started off borrowing from Star Trek, but season 3 raids it's own history, with stunning results.

View more: The Orville started as a spoof, but it has evolved into so much more

China will launch 2-in-1 asteroid deflection mission in 2025

NASA loses contact with ICON spacecraft

Moon and Mars! Fav photos of December 7 occultation

Save up to $900 on these festive Unistellar telescope deals

SpaceX launching competitor’s satellites Thursday

See all 5 bright planets in December

NASA Artemis I – Flight Day 22: Orion Spacecraft Continues Its Journey Back to Earth

At a powerful radio telescope, the hunt for signals from intelligent extraterrestrial life is on

Watch the moon eclipse Earth in stunning video from Artemis 1's Orion spacecraft

Watch SpaceX launch 40 OneWeb internet satellites Thursday

NASA's Hubble Space Telescope Sees a Window to the Early Universe Through a Strange Dwarf Galaxy Named 'Peekaboo'

Why 21 cm is the magic length for the Universe

OTHER TECH NEWS

Top Car News Car News