Japan’s Smart Lander for Investigating Moon (SLIM), named Moon Sniper, a successful touchdown will make Japan the fifth country ever to put a spacecraft on the moon.
The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) initiated the precision landing attempt with the SLIM probe, for a targeted site near a crater just south of the lunar equator.
The mission’s objective was to demonstrate precision in landing, with a goal of touching down within 100 meters (328 feet) of the designated target.
This technological feat is considered crucial for advancing lunar exploration, particularly in the quest for lunar water and human habitation.
The Moon Sniper’s 20-minute touchdown phase commenced at midnight on Saturday, GMT, and the successful landing will be an achievement to Japan’s space technology.
Shinichiro Sakai, JAXA’s SLIM project manager, expressed the importance of this achievement, stating, “No other nation has achieved this. Proving Japan has this technology would bring us a huge advantage in upcoming international missions like Artemis,” referring to NASA’s crewed moon mission.
The SLIM mission faced difficulties, including setbacks like the launch failure of the new flagship rocket H3 in March.
However, Japan’s commitment to space exploration and its partnerships with the United States shows its determination to be in the industry of space activities.
Japan participates in NASA’s Artemis program, with aspirations to send one of its astronauts to the moon. The Moon Sniper’s success makes Japan’s position in lunar exploration and also opens doors to future collaborations.
JAXA plans a joint unmanned lunar polar exploration with India in 2025, which shows international cooperation in space exploration.
Onboard the Moon Sniper spacecraft is the lunar surface robot SORA-Q, developed in collaboration with the Japanese toy company Takara Tomy.
This small robot, slightly larger than a tennis ball, is very important the mission. Named after the Japanese word for universe, SORA-Q’s ability to navigate the lunar surface and capture images is likened to a friendly Star Wars droid or a sea turtle.
The successful landing of SLIM makes Japan to the shortlist of nations achieving a lunar landing but also positions the country as a player in the growing lunar exploration landscape.
JAXA’s technology is expected to be a powerful tool in future missions, particularly in exploring hilly moon poles that are seen as sources of oxygen, fuel, and water.
The SLIM mission’s focus on examining rocks exposed in the lunar crater provides insights into the origins of the moon and Earth.
Additionally, the quest for lunar water resources gains importance, as it could contribute to the establishment of bases on the moon for future human missions and space exploration efforts.
The recent achievements of other nations, such as India’s historic touchdown on the moon’s south pole with Chandrayaan-3, highlight the collaborative efforts of the international space community.
However, lunar missions are not without challenges, as evidenced by failures, including the crash of a probe from Japanese startup ispace Inc. and a fuel leak in a lander from US startup Astrobotic Technology.
While JAXA has twice achieved successful landings on small asteroids, a lunar landing presents challenges due to the moon’s stronger gravity.
The SORA-Q probe, with its capabilities and collaboration with a toy company, shows the approach to space exploration. This partnership showcases the fusion of advanced technology and creative design.
If Japan makes the lunar landing, the global space community watches for the valuable data and images that SLIM and its accompanying technologies, including the SORA-Q probe, will transmit from the lunar surface.