A Japanese company might be on the cusp of making history. Japan's ispace is attempting to land its Hakuto-R craft on the Moon at 12:40PM Eastern, and you can watch the livestream right now. If all goes well, ispace will claim both the first successful private Moon landing and the first Japanese lunar landing of any kind. To date, only China, the Soviet Union and the US have touched down. The vehicle includes payloads from NASA, Japan's JAXA and a small robotic rover (Rashid) from the United Arab Emirates. The rover is also historic as the UAE's first lunar craft.
Hakuto-R launched aboard a SpaceX rocket about 100 days ago. The landing is divided into six stages that include a de-orbit insertion, a largely unpowered "cruise" phase, a braking burn, a reorientation and two final phases where the machine slows down and (hopefully) reaches the surface intact. Israel's SpaceIL tried a private Moon landing in 2019, but it crashed following an engine failure.
A completed landing will help ispace's goals of sending two more landers to the Moon in 2024 and 2025. It could also spur Japan's broader spaceflight ambitions. Both JAXA and Japanese companies have struggled to get into space using domestically-made rockets. While ispace is relying on an American rocket to complete its mission, a landing would upstage SpaceX, Blue Origin and other private outfits racing to land on Earth's cosmic neighbor.