A Japanese venture firm is about to launch what could become the first privately-funded spacecraft to land on the moon. The spacecraft will be carried by a US rocket.
The unmanned lunar lander was developed by Tokyo-based start-up ispace. The rocket carrying the lander will be launched by US firm SpaceX from the state of Florida.
The launch was scheduled for Wednesday, but SpaceX announced that the lift-off has been postponed until 8:37 UTC on Thursday. It says additional inspection work has to be done.
The spacecraft will separate from the rocket about 45 minutes after lift-off. It will then cruise toward the moon, which is about 380,000 kilometers away from the Earth.
It is expected to land on the moon's surface next year at the end of April. If it is successful, it will be the first time that a private company has landed a spacecraft on the moon.
The lander will carry small robots developed by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency and other entities. It will conduct surface probes and experiment with various kinds of technology.
In a series of research papers, it has been suggested that there is water on the moon.
International competition in the field of space development has been intensifying in recent years. The US-led Artemis lunar exploration project came about because of that competition.
Private businesses are also trying to expand the areas in space that can be used for commercial purposes.
The latest lunar landing could usher in a new era for business opportunities on the moon.