The first commercial Moon lander is on its way to the Moon. The lander launched aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket on Sunday, December 11. The launch is part of a collaboration between SpaceX and Japanese lunar exploration company ispace. The mission, conveniently named Mission 1, is expected to land near the end of April.
ispace was founded more than a decade ago, with the team originating as a competitor for the Google Lunar Xprize, according to CNBC. The company pivoted after that competition fell through, and now, it has been working on a goal to create an ecosystem and colony on the Moon, beginning with the first commercial Moon lander.
What’s even more intriguing about this first commercial Moon lander is that it isn’t just a single rover onboard. In fact, the ispace Mission 1 lander is currently carrying small rovers and payloads for a number of government agencies and companies, including some from the United States, Japan, Canada, and even the United Arab Emirates.
According to ispace, it has 10 milestones outlined for the lander, with three of those having already been met. From here, the company is hoping to establish a communication link with the commercial Moon lander, then maneuver it into orbit. After it’s in orbit successfully, the spacecraft will begin the month-long flight to the Moon, where it will once again enter orbit around our Lunar satellite.
After that, ispace plans to move the first lander to the surface of the Moon, where it will join the likes of the Apollo program in touching down on our planet’s satellite for the first time. If the flight is successful, and the commercial Moon lander makes it to the surface, ispace will become the first private company to land a spacecraft on the Moon.