Japan becomes fifth country to land spacecraft on the moon

Japan becomes fifth country to land spacecraft on the moon
via YouTube/JAXA
Michelle De Pacina
By Michelle De Pacina
January 19, 2024
Japan has landed their historic robotic mission, named Smart Lander for Investigating Moon (SLIM), on the lunar surface, making the East Asian nation to become the fifth nation to land a spacecraft on the moon.
Japan’s landing: In a press conference on Friday, Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) President Hiroshi Yamakawa confirmed that SLIM landed on the moon at around 12:20 a.m. JST on Jan. 20 and has re-established communication with earth. The success followed that of the Soviet Union, the United States, China and India.
“We believe the soft landing itself was successful as the spacecraft sent telemetry date, meaning most equipment on board was operating,” explained JAXA Director General Hitoshi Kuninaka. 
SLIM problems: However, the space agency noted that the probe’s solar panels were not able to generate electricity, possibly because it was angled wrong. This limits the lifespan of the spacecraft to last only a few hours. According to Kuninaka, SLIM is currently operating on limited batteries, and JAXA is taking measures to conserve power by shutting down the spacecraft’s heater. This decision aims to prioritize the download of navigation data. 
Ongoing analysis: Although the mission has successfully collected pictures as part of its operations, Kuninaka noted that it will take about a month to execute an accurate analysis. Their primary focus is evaluating whether the spacecraft’s precision navigating system operated as intended. They also have yet to confirm whether SLIM has landed upright or upside down.
About the mission: SLIM, dubbed the “moon sniper,” is a project focused on researching pinpoint landing technology for future lunar probes and testing it on the moon’s surface with a small-scale probe. It aims to enable precise landings on resource-scarce planets, allowing for targeted exploration in solar system research probes.
SLIM’s goal is to achieve a lightweight probe system with high-precision landing technology, addressing the need for accurate landings near specific targets on astronomical objects. SLIM aims to contribute to both lunar and future solar system probes by achieving small-scale, lightweight probe systems and pinpoint landing technology. It is expected to be a crucial tool for exploring hilly moon poles for potential resources like oxygen, fuel and water. 
 
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