Japan has been forced to cancel the first ever unmanned moon landing attempt


I swear, one day, OMOTENASHI… Bang, zoom, straight to the moon!

The journey to the moon must be difficult, and yet we rarely hear of failed attempts to reach our rocky orbiting neighbor. Even when we sent Tom Hanks and Bill Paxton there once, they made it back safely.

▼ Just look at these other guys! Playing golf like at some country club…

However, getting to the moon undoubtedly remains one of humanity’s greatest endeavors, as only three nations have sent a spacecraft there so far: the United States, Russia and China. On November 16, Japan launched the fourth unmanned spacecraft OMOTENASHI to land on the lunar surface.

The name OMOTENASHI is short for ABOUToutstanding MOon exploration THESEtechnologies demonstrated by ONno Semi-hard ANDMPactor. However, this great leap for acronyms is also a Japanese term that represents the spirit of hospitality that originated in the tea ceremony and became something of a buzzword in the run-up to the Tokyo Olympics.

On the other hand, the Japanese word “wrappedcan also mean the “surface” or “face” of something. Combined with the Japanese word “our“, which can mean “none” or “nothing”, the ship also had the ominous homophonic meaning “no surface”, because in this thing it will not reach the surface of the moon.

Shortly after OMOTENASHI detached from a US rocket launched from the Kennedy Space Center Kennedy, communications with ground control were unstable. The problem persisted throughout the trip, and the scheduled November 21 Moon landing was deemed impossible.

▼ A report showing a computer simulation of OMOTENASHI idle

The reason was communication problems that made it difficult for the ground crew to direct the ship’s solar panel towards the sun to recharge the batteries – or to whip this linguistic dead horse even further: The sun was in contact with the “surfaceless” panels. This left OMOTENASHI unable to adjust its trajectory and slow down to the 180 kilometers per hour (112 miles per hour) needed for a safe lunar landing.

JAXA will continue to monitor the ship, and if the situation improves, they may make one last attempt to bring OMOTENASHI to the moon. However, as things stand, the moon landing on this mission is considered a failure.

Readers of the news on the Internet were sympathetic that such an ambitious project failed, but less favorably about the choice of names for such a spacecraft.

“Why did they name something that goes to the lunar surface?”
“They gave ‘omotenashi’ a bad name.”
“Maybe if they called it OMOTEARI [Japanese word for ‘surface present’]its solar panels would know they were facing the sun.”
“I guess the space environment was MOTENASHI [Japanese word for ‘not attractive’]“.
“I heard they had control issues, but I didn’t know it was that bad.”
“Next time you try it, call it OMOTEMUKI [Japanese word for ‘towards the surface’]“.
“It wasn’t a very good name.”
“Oh, they named it after a slogan from one of the worst Olympic Games in history.”
“I heard from the beginning that the probability of success was under 10 percent, so as long as they learn from their mistakes, it’s OK.”
“It’s all a learning process. It only ends when they give up completely.”

It’s unfortunate because had OMOTENASHI reached the lunar surface, it would have become the smallest craft in history to do so, measuring just 12 x 24 x 37 centimeters (650 cubic inches). On the other hand, it looks like it’s still poised to fulfill its other function of measuring radiation levels in lunar orbit to help develop long-term plans to build a space station there as part of NASA’s Artemis program.

So even if there is a lack of communication here, this little man is still there and does everything he can to help, and that’s what OMOTENASHI is all about.

Source: NHK News Network, Hachim Kiko
Top image: Pakutaso
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