A software glitch caused a Japanese robotic spacecraft to misjudge its altitude as it attempted to land on the moon last month leading to its crash, an investigation has revealed.
Ispace of Japan said in a news conference on Friday that it had finished its analysis of what went wrong during the landing attempt on April 25. The Hakuto-R Mission 1 lander completed its planned landing sequence, slowing to a speed of about 2 miles per hour. But it was still about three miles above the surface. After exhausting its fuel, the spacecraft plunged to its destruction, hitting the Atlas crater at more than 200 miles per hour.
The lander was to be the first private spacecraft to successfully set down on the surface of the moon. It is part of a trend toward private companies, not just governmental space agencies, taking a leading role in space exploration.
A review of data showed that the software guiding the descent appeared to lose track of the landers’s altitude when it passed over the rim of a crater on the moon’s surface that was about two miles higher than the surrounding terrain.