Washington: Elon Musk’s SpaceX launched Japanese startup’s spacecraft to the moon on Sunday. The launch was carried out by SpaceX in Cape Canaveral in the US state of Florida.
The spacecraft, produced by Tokyo-based startup ispace, blasted off aboard a Falcon 9 rocket at 2:38 am (0738 GMT).
So far only the United States, Russia and China have managed to put a robot on the lunar surface.
The ispace mission is the first of a program called Hakuto-R, which means “white rabbit” in Japanese.
Measuring just over 2 by 2.5 meters, the spacecraft has a payload that includes a 10-kilogram rover built by the United Arab Emirates.
The Gulf country is a newcomer to the space race but recently sent a probe into Mars’ orbit last year. If the rover, named Rashid, successfully lands, it will be the Arab world’s first Moon mission.
Hakuto was one of five finalists in Google’s Lunar XPrize competition to land a rover on the Moon before a 2018 deadline, which ended without a winner.