TOKYO — Japan hopes to make the world's first “pinpoint landing” on the moon early Saturday, joining a modern push for lunar contact with roots in the Cold War-era space race between the United States and the Soviet Union.
Japan's attempt to bring down its lander at a precise location follows the April failure of a Japanese company's spacecraft that apparently crashed while attempting to land on the moon.
As Japan and others look to enter a club so far occupied by only the United States, the Soviet Union, India and China, victory means international scientific and diplomatic accolades and potential domestic political gains.
Failure means a very expensive, and public, embarrassment.
Here's a look at high-profile recent and upcoming attempts, and what they might mean, ahead of Japan's moon landing.
The United States
NASA plans to send astronauts to fly around the moon next year, and to land there in 2026.
Just this week, however, a U.S. company, Astrobotic Technology, said its lunar lander will soon burn up in Earth's atmosphere after a failed moonshot.
The lander, named Peregrine, developed a fuel leak that forced Astrobotic to abandon its attempt to make the first U.S. lunar landing in more than 50 years. The company suspects a stuck valve caused a tank to rupture.
NASA is working to commercialize lunar deliveries by private businesses while the U.S. government tries to get astronauts back to the…