Private Space Race: Companies compete to reach the moon

The Japanese company ispace has become the latest private company to try in vain to take a probe to the moon. So far, only Russia, the United States and China have managed to land a device on the surface of the star, which is located at an average distance of 384 thousand km from Earth.

These are some of the private companies that have taken this adventure.


In February 2019, a 585-kilogram probe called Bereshit (Genesis in Hebrew) took off from Earth on a Falcon 9 rocket from the American company SpaceX, which was founded by entrepreneur Elon Musk.

The probe, which was developed by the Israeli non-profit organization SpaceIL in partnership with Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI), a major Israeli defense company, carried scientific measuring instruments and Israeli cultural and historical materials.

But the mission, which had a budget of $100 million, failed after the probe’s engine failed and it ended up crashing on the lunar surface in April 2019.

“We are on the moon, but not as we wanted,” said one of the members of the expedition.

SpaceIL is considering trying again in 2025.


The Hakuto (“White Rabbit” in Japanese) moon landing project of the .start The Japanese company ispace was one of the five finalists in the international Google Lunar XPrize competition in 2010, which had no winner, because no company managed to lower the robot in a controlled manner before the March 2018 deadline.

Hakuto launched in December on a SpaceX rocket and reached lunar orbit in March.

It carried two small lunar rovers (“Rover”), one built by the United Arab Emirates and the other miniature, developed by the Japanese space agency and toy maker Takara Tomy.

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But on Tuesday, the day the moon landing was scheduled, ispace indicated that it had lost contact with the spacecraft and later announced that it may have crash-landed on the lunar surface.

The Japanese company is working on two more flights to the moon, the first of which could be launched in 2024.

Intuitive machines

Texas-based Intuitive Machines, which was created in 2013, aims to launch its Nova-C lunar probe in June.

The probe will carry five NASA science instruments, as well as equipment from various private companies, with the goal of collecting data on topics such as space weather.

Numerous sculptures by contemporary American artist Jeff Koons entitled “Phases of the Moon” will also be placed for permanent installation on the lunar surface.

Nova-C will be equipped with an “EagleCam”, which will allow the vehicle to take a picture of itself when it lands on the surface of the star, i.e. a lunar selfie.


Astrobotic, which also participated in the Google Lunar XPrize, is a company based in Pittsburgh, in the northeastern United States, that intends to deposit the Peregrine probe on the moon.

Measuring 2.5 meters wide and 2 meters high, it will take off in principle on May 4 from Cape Canaveral in Florida, aboard a rocket designed by United Launch Alliance (the launch company jointly owned by Boeing and Lockheed Martin).

Peregrine will carry a range of gadgets and devices from six countries, including a “Rover” designed by students at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh.

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Astrobotic and Intuitive Machines is part of NASA’s program to send scientific equipment to the Moon through private companies. One of them, American Firefly Aerospace, which plans to send a lander to the surface of the moon in 2024.

Aileen Morales

"Beer nerd. Food fanatic. Alcohol scholar. Tv practitioner. Writer. Troublemaker. Falls down a lot."

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