The Japanese lunar spacecraft “Moon Sniper” SLIM was launched into space two weeks after the moon landing from Chandryaan-3

Japan launched its lunar exploration spacecraft on Thursday aboard a home-built H-IIA rocket and hopes to become the world’s fifth country to land on the moon early next year. The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) said the rocket launched as planned from Tanegashima Space Center in southern Japan and successfully launched the Smart Lander for Investigating Moon (SLIM). Unfavorable weather led to three shifts in one week last month.

Dubbed the “lunar sniper,” Japan aims to land SLIM within 100 meters of its target location on the lunar surface. The $100 million (about Rs831 million) mission is scheduled to begin landing in February after a long, fuel-efficient approach path.

“The big goal of SLIM is to prove the high-precision landing…to be able to ‘land where we want’ and not ‘land where we can’ on the lunar surface,” JAXA President Hiroshi Yamakawa said at a press conference.

The launch comes two weeks after India became the fourth country to successfully land a spacecraft on the moon with its Chandrayaan-3 mission to the uncharted south pole of the moon. Around the same time, the Russian lander Luna-25 crashed while approaching the moon.

Two previous moon landing attempts by Japan failed last year. JAXA lost contact with the OMOTENASHI lander and failed to land in November. The Hakuto-R Mission 1 lander, made by Japanese startup Space, crashed in April while attempting to descend to the lunar surface.

SLIM is scheduled to land on the near-Earth side of the Moon near Mare Nectaris, a lunar sea that appears as a dark patch when viewed from Earth. Its main goal is to test advanced optical and image processing technology.

After landing, the ship will analyze the composition of the olivine rock near the sites and search for clues to the moon’s origin. There is no lunar rover loaded on SLIM.

Thursday’s H-IIA rocket also carried the X-Ray Imaging and Spectroscopy Mission (XRISM) satellite, a joint project by JAXA, NASA and the European Space Agency. The satellite’s goal is to observe plasma winds flowing through the Universe, which scientists consider key to understanding the evolution of stars and galaxies.

Mitsubishi Heavy Industries manufactured the rocket and managed the launch. This was the 47th H-IIA rocket launched by Japan since 2001. This puts the vehicle’s success rate at almost 98 percent.

JAXA had suspended launch of the H-IIA with SLIM for several months while investigating the failure of its new H3 medium rocket on its debut in March.

Japan’s space missions have suffered further setbacks recently, with the failed launch of the small Epsilon rocket in October 2022, followed by an engine explosion during a test in July.

The country aims to send an astronaut to the lunar surface in the second half of the 2020s as part of NASA’s Artemis program.

© Thomson Reuters 2023

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Chrissy Callahan

Chrissy Callahan is a Worldtimetodays U.S. News Reporter based in Canada. His focus is on U.S. politics and the environment. He has covered climate change extensively, as well as healthcare and crime. Chrissy Callahan joined Worldtimetodays in 2023 from the Daily Express and previously worked for Chemist and Druggist and the Jewish Chronicle. He is a graduate of Cambridge University. Languages: English. You can get in touch with me by emailing:

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