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EDITORIAL | ispace's Lunar Lander Failure Only Moved Space Venture Forward

Look beyond the lunar lander failure. It is ventures like ispace embracing bold challenges that drive the advancement of science and technology.



The ispace lunar exploration program HAKUTO-R is supported by Japan Airlines, Mitsui Sumitomo Insurance, and NGK Spark Plug. CEO Takeshi Hakamada of ispace (left) stands with the executives from the partnering companies on February 22, 2019 in Tokyo. (©Sankei by Ikue Mio)

Lunar exploration company ispace Inc took on the challenge of aiming at becoming the world's first private company to put a lunar lander on the moon. Unfortunately, this time the Tokyo-based space venture's effort ended in failure.

The lunar lander developed by the company was descending smoothly towards the moon on the early morning of April 26. Then, just before landing, communications were lost. It is highly likely that the craft crashed onto the moon's surface.

The outcome is disappointing. Nevertheless, the fact that a Japanese venture took on this challenging feat holds great significance. Up to now, only the former Soviet Union, the United States, and China have achieved landings on the moon. 

ispace lunar lander
Taking a look at the Earth from the lunar lander in a photo taken with a Canadensys camera. (Provided by ispace.)

Experience Gained, Lessons Learned

ispace can now apply this experience to their next endeavor and enter the forefront of the space industry. Up to now, Japan has been trailing behind Europe and the United States.

While ispace Inc is a Japan-based venture, it is also a multinational group. It seeks talent and technology from around the world. 

Also, in this recent challenge, ispace collaborated with Mitsui Sumitomo Insurance Co Ltd to develop "moon insurance." Thus, they established a system where private sector challenges are supported by the private sector.

These broad networks have the potential to expand Japan's potential. They also serve as a catalyst and driving force for the regeneration and revitalization of Japan's entire industry. Moreover, they do the same for research and development in science and technology.

Failure - Like Success - Moves Science Forward

Takeshi Hakamada, the CEO of ispace Inc, explained in a press conference that they were able to obtain data up until just before the landing. That itself  marks a significant step forward. Similarly, Elon Musk, the founder of SpaceX in the United States, tweeted that they "learned a lot" after the failed launch of their large spacecraft.

Comments like these sharply contrast with the press conference of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA). That began with an apology after the failure of the H3 rocket launch.

"Bold challenges and failures" are the privileges of venture companies. This is projected in the contrast between the two post-failure press conferences.

It is challenges and failures that are the driving force behind the advancement of science and technology. Nor is this limited to the space industry. Whether or not venture companies have the capacity to take on bold challenges ー and unreservedly accept their failures ー impacts the overall strength of industry and of science and technology.

The United States leads the world in harnessing the power of venture companies, while Japan lags far behind in this field.

The challenge taken on by ispace Inc and the network it has built could provide a breakthrough for overcoming the status quo in Japan.

Following the failure of the lunar landing, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida tweeted his support for "this unrelenting challenge." We must continue to encourage the bold challenges of venture companies. Their efforts hold the potential to break through the status quo and lead the revitalization of science and technology in Japan.


(Read the editorial in Japanese.)

Author: Editorial Board, The Sankei Shimbun

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