Moon Sniper: Japan lander enters lunar orbit; JAXA reveals date for descent to surface | Tech News

Moon Sniper: Japan lander enters lunar orbit; JAXA reveals date for descent to surface

Japan's SLIM space probe entered the Moon's orbit on Monday in a major step towards the country's first successful lunar landing, expected next month.

By:AFP
| Updated on: Dec 26 2023, 07:07 IST
Chandrayaan-4 mission: ISRO and JAXA’s lunar mission overview
 SLIM space probe
1/5 Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) and JAXA are developing the Chandrayaan-4 mission which is known as the Lunar Polar Exploration Mission (LUPEX). This international collaborative mission will study the quantity and types of water resources present on the lunar surface. (JAXA)
 SLIM space probe
2/5 The launch of the Chandrayaan-4 mission will take place in 2025 if everything goes as planned. The launch will be carried by JAXA’s H3 rocket. According to JAXA, the launch mission has around 6 tons of mass whereas the lander and the rover weigh more than 350 kilograms. (JAXA)
 SLIM space probe
3/5 The LUPEX mission will aim to land on the lunar south polar region in search of water and it is planned to stay on the Moon for more than 3 months to conduct successful studies. Furthermore, the rover and the lander will also be designed to survive lunar night and extreme cold. (JAXA)
 SLIM space probe
4/5 The Chandrayaan-4 mission will be equipped with six major payloads: Resource Investigation Water Analyzer(REIWA), Advanced Lunar Imaging Spectrometer(ALIS), Neuron Spectrometer(NS), Ground Penetrating Radar(GPR), Exospheric Mass Spectrometer for LUPEX(EMS-L), and Mid-Infrared Imaging Spectrometer. (JAXA)
 SLIM space probe
5/5 The Resource Investigation Water Analyzer(REIWA) payload will further consist of four major instruments to study water resources. The instruments include a Lunar Thermogravimetric Analyzer(LTGA), Triple Reflection Reflectron(TRITON), Aquatic Detector using Optical Resonance(ADORE), and Sample Analysis Package(ISAP). (Pixabay)
 SLIM space probe
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The Smart Lander for Investigating Moon (SLIM) is nicknamed the "Moon Sniper" because it is designed to land within 100 metres (328 feet) of a specific target on the lunar surface. ( representative image) (REUTERS)

Japan's SLIM space probe entered the Moon's orbit on Monday in a major step towards the country's first successful lunar landing, expected next month. The Smart Lander for Investigating Moon (SLIM) is nicknamed the "Moon Sniper" because it is designed to land within 100 metres (328 feet) of a specific target on the lunar surface.

If successful, the touchdown would make Japan only the fifth country to have successfully landed a probe on the Moon, after the United States, Russia, China and India.

On Monday, SLIM "successfully entered the moon's orbit at 04:51 pm Japan time" (0751 GMT), the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) said in a statement released Monday evening.

"Its trajectory shift was achieved as originally planned, and there is nothing out of the ordinary about the probe's conditions," the agency said.

The lander's descent towards the moon is expected to start around 12:00 am Japan time on January 20, with its landing on the surface scheduled for 20 minutes later, JAXA said.

The H-IIA rocket lifted off in September from the southern island of Tanegashima carrying the lander, after three postponements linked to bad weather.

JAXA said this month that the mission would be an "unprecedentedly high precision landing" on the Moon.

The lander is equipped with a spherical probe that was developed with a toy company.

Slightly bigger than a tennis ball, it can change its shape to move on the lunar surface.

Compared to previous probes that landed "a few or 10-plus kilometres" away from targets, SLIM's purported margin of error of under 100 metres suggests a level of accuracy once thought impossible, thanks to the culmination of a 20-year effort by researchers, according to JAXA.

With the advance of technology, demand is growing to pinpoint targets like craters and rocks on the lunar surface, Shinichiro Sakai, JAXA's SLIM project manager, told reporters this month.

"Gone are the days when merely exploring 'somewhere on the moon' was desired," he said.

Hopes are also high that SLIM's exactitude will make sampling of lunar permafrost easier, bringing scientists a step closer to uncovering the mystery around water resources on the moon, Sakai added.

Japanese missions have failed twice -- one public and one private.

Last year, the country unsuccessfully sent a lunar probe named Omotenashi as part of the United States' Artemis 1 mission.

In April, Japanese startup ispace tried in vain to become the first private company to land on the Moon, losing communication with its craft after what it described as a "hard landing".

 

 

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First Published Date: 26 Dec, 07:07 IST
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