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Japan’s 1st moon lander probe in jeopardy after launch

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The Japanese spacecraft intended as the country’s first lunar lander has been plagued by communications problems since soon after its launch on Wednesday as part of NASA’s Artemis 1, putting the unmanned mission in jeopardy.

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) is currently unable to confirm the location of the craft, named OMOTENASHI, or other details about its status.

OMOTENASHI, a tiny probe weighing just 12.6 kilograms, is slated to land on the moon Nov. 21 or Nov. 22.

JAXA confirmed that the probe separated successfully from the American rocket on Wednesday and was initially operating as expected. But communications quickly became unstable, and JAXA has been working to restore them.

OMOTENASHI is Japan’s first attempt to engage in full-scale lunar surface exploration. If the mission is successful, Japan will become the fourth country to land a lunar probe, after the former Soviet Union, the U.S. and China. But JAXA’s troubles with the lander could set it behind in an intensifying race against China and other countries to explore the surface of the moon.
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