Japan Aims Moon Landing with SLIM
Kaustubh Katdare • 1 week ago • 2.8k views
In a significant leap towards space exploration, Japan successfully launched a lunar exploration spacecraft on a domestically developed H-IIA rocket, aiming to be the fifth nation globally to achieve a lunar landing early next year.
The launch was executed from the Tanegashima Space Center in southern Japan and carried the Smart Lander for Investigating Moon (SLIM), following three postponements last month due to unfavorable weather conditions.
JAXA, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, expressed its goal to land SLIM within 100 meters of a targeted site on the lunar surface.
The mission, worth $100 million, is expected to commence its landing by February following a fuel-efficient trajectory.
JAXA President Hiroshi Yamakawa emphasized the mission's primary objective during a news conference: to prove high-accuracy landing and achieve 'landing where we want' rather than 'landing where we can'.
Signals received from SLIM hours after the launch confirmed its normal operation.
This significant event occurred two weeks after India successfully landed a spacecraft on the moon with its Chandrayaan-3 mission, while Russia's Luna-25 lander crashed during its moon approach.
Japan had two failed lunar landing attempts in the past year, losing contact with the OMOTENASHI lander and aborting a landing attempt in November.
Additionally, the Hakuto-R Mission 1 lander, developed by Japanese startup ispace, crashed in April while attempting to descend to the lunar surface.
SLIM is programmed to touch down near Mare Nectaris, a lunar sea visible from Earth as a dark spot.
Its primary mission is to test advanced optical and image processing technology and analyze the composition of olivine rocks near the landing site to uncover clues about the moon's origin. Notably, SLIM does not carry a lunar rover.
The H-IIA rocket also transported the X-Ray Imaging and Spectroscopy Mission (XRISM) satellite, a collaborative project between JAXA, NASA, and the European Space Agency (ESA).
The satellite aims to observe plasma winds flowing through the universe, crucial for understanding the evolution of stars and galaxies. Ground stations in Hawaii and Japan received signals from XRISM, confirming the successful deployment of the satellite's solar panels.
Mitsubishi Heavy Industries manufactured the H-IIA rocket and managed the launch, marking the 47th H-IIA launch since 2001 and bringing the vehicle's success rate close to 98%.
JAXA had previously suspended the H-IIA launch carrying SLIM to investigate the failure of its new medium-lift H3 rocket during its debut in March. Japan plans to retire the H-IIA after its 50th launch in 2024.
Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida underlined the importance of developing flagship rockets for Japan's independent space activities in a social media post following the launch.
"We'll build up the momentum toward the successful re-launch of the H3 rocket," Kishida posted on social media X, formerly known as Twitter.
Japan's space missions have encountered other recent setbacks, including the launch failure of an Epsilon small rocket in October 2022 and an engine explosion during a test in July.
However, JAXA is planning a joint Lunar Polar Exploration Mission (LUPEX) with the Indian Space Research Organisation beyond 2025, wherein Japan's H3 rocket will transport India's next lunar lander into space.
Additionally, Japan aims to send an astronaut to the moon's surface in the latter half of the 2020s as part of NASA's Artemis programme, indicating its continued commitment to advancing space exploration despite past challenges.
PS: Featured image is AI generated.
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