March 4, 2024


We’ll be taking a break from Space Business for a bit! In the meantime, keep your eyes on the skies (and if you want more Quartz in your inbox, check out our other newsletters)!

Another week, another nail-biter for lunar landings. Hot on the heels of the failed attempt by Astrobiotic’s Peregrine, Japan’s Smart Lander for Investigating Moon, or SLIM, attempted lunar landing #2 of 2024.

This time, the spacecraft stuck the landing with remarkable accuracy—it touched down within 100 meters of its target. However, if it were a gymnast, the spacecraft wouldn’t have received a perfect 10. Shortly after landing, JAXA reported the spacecraft’s solar cells didn’t seem to be working. One theory posits the spacecraft might have rolled after landing, explaining why the solar panels are pointing in the wrong direction.

With this second lunar mission in jeopardy, 2024—which is shaping up to be the Year of the Moon—is not off to a great start. While there have been some recent successes (like India’s Chandrayaan-3 last summer), there have also been lots of failures (like Chandrayaan-2 in 2019). ispace, a Japanese company, crash-landed last year, mirroring the results of the Israeli firm SpaceIL in 2019. Even the US and Soviet Union had their fair share of crash landings during their lunar race in the 1960s. Despite the intervening decades of progress, landing on the Moon is still hard—after all, it’s literally rocket science.

With a handful of other attempts coming up this year (the next being Intuitive Machine’s Nova-C in February), hopefully someone can break the streak. And not all hope is lost for SLIM. The spacecraft’s twin rovers seem to have been ejected as planned and JAXA has their fingers crossed that sunlight might yet reach SLIM’s panels so the little lander can carry on.

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IMAGERY INTERLUDE

Sierra Space has been designing an inflatable space station structure. This week it successfully passed its first stress test.

Image for article titled 🚀 Space Business: A lunar new year

Photo: Sierra Space

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SPACE DEBRIS

Iran launched its Soraya remote sensing satellite into orbit 460 miles up with its Qaem 100 rocket. The launch was a collaboration between Iran’s Revolutionary Guards’ space program and its civilian space program.

Turkey’s first astronaut made it to the ISS this week. Axiom Space flew Alper Gezeravcı and three others to the station for a two-week stay.

Blue Origin and SpaceX are making cargo landers for the Moon. The work is being done under NASA’s Human Landing System awards.

A NASA lunar orbiter pinged India’s Vikram lander on the Moon’s surface. The laser signal sent to Vikram’s small mirror-like retroreflector was the first between a lunar lander and orbiter.

SpaceX is hoping to trade land with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission. Local environmental groups are concerned about the deal due to potential impacts on the protected ecosystem.

This was issue 213 of our newsletter. Hope your week is out of this world! Send prayers for SLIM, tips, and informed opinions to talk@qz.com.

This week’s Space Business newsletter was authored by science writer and photographer Mara Johnson-Groh, and edited by Susan Howson.

Last week: More Consolidation in 2024?



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