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  • Voltaire Staff

Japanese explorer enters lunar orbit, moon landing on Jan 20

Japan’s lunar explorer SLIM, which seeks to achieve the feat of landing within 100 metres of its intended target, has entered Moon’s Orbit, Japanese space agency has said.

According to a press release by JAXA, the explorer is expected to land on January 20. If it misses this date, the next landing opportunity would be around February 16.

The SLIM, or Smart Lander for Investigating Moon, was successfully launched on September 6 along with XRISM, a powerful X-ray space telescope.

JAXA officials described SLIM as a mission focused on researching the technology needed for precise landings in the future on the moon.

According to JAXA, the creation of the SLIM lander represents a significant advancement, allowing humans to shift qualitatively towards landing in specific locations rather than opting for easier landing spots, as has been the practice so far.

The agency said that achieving this capability will open up the possibility of landing on planets with even fewer resources than the moon.

If the mission proceeds as planned, SLIM will go on to deploy two mini-probes, which will capture images, assist the mission team in monitoring SLIM's condition, and serve as an independent communication system for direct communication with Earth.

JAXA said that a precise landing achieved by SLIM would mark a significant shift from the era of "landing where we can" to "land where we want" in future Moon missions.

The transition, it said, is crucial for endeavours such as the search for water, which may necessitate pinpoint landings on challenging surfaces, including slopes.

If it goes as planned, Japan will join the ranks of handful of nations that have successfully landed explorers on the moon. The achievement would make Japan the fifth country to accomplish this feat, following the former Soviet Union, the United States, China, and India, as global competition in space exploration continues to intensify.

India's lunar exploration journey began with the 2008 launch of Chandrayaan-1, a mission that unveiled water molecules on the moon and positioned India prominently in space science.

Following this success, Chandrayaan-2, launched in 2019, showcased India's technological strengths despite challenges during the Vikram lander's descent. The Vikram Lander could not make a successful landing on the surface of the moon.

Chandrayaan-3 was launched from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre on July 14, 2023. The spacecraft successfully entered lunar orbit on August 5, and the lander made a successful touch down near the lunar south pole on August 23 at 18:03 IST (12:33 UTC).

The feat made India only the fourth country to successfully land on the Moon and the first to do so near the lunar south pole.


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