Japan’s “Moon Sniper” mission launched Thursday, as the country’s space agency attempts to recover from a number of recent failures, only weeks after India’s historic lunar victory. Only the US, Russia, China, and, as of last month, India had successfully landed a probe on the Moon, with two Japanese missions — one public and one private — failing. The H-IIA rocket launched off early Thursday from Tanegashima, Japan’s southernmost island, carrying the lander, which is planned to touchdown on the lunar surface in early 2024. The Smart Lander for Investigating Moon, or SLIM, and the XRISM space research satellite created with the US and European space agencies both separated soon after, to cheers and acclaim at mission control.
Because of severe weather, the launch had already been postponed three times. The SLIM is known as the “Moon Sniper” since it is designed to land within 100 meters of a selected surface target. That is far shorter than the typical range of several kilometers.
“By developing the SLIM lander, humans will make a qualitative shift toward being able to land wherever we want, rather than just where it is easy to land,” the Japanese space agency JAXA stated prior to the launch.
“By doing so, it will be possible to land on planets with even fewer resources than the Moon.”
“There are no previous instances of pinpoint landing on celestial bodies with significant gravity such as the Moon,” the agency noted.
According to JAXA, XRISM will undertake “high-resolution X-ray spectroscopic observations of the hot gas plasma wind that blows through the galaxies in the universe.” These will aid in the investigation of “the flows of mass and energy, revealing the composition and evolution of celestial objects.” The lander is outfitted with a spherical probe created in collaboration with a toy firm. It is somewhat larger than a tennis ball and can change shape to glide around the lunar surface.
India Achieves Historic Lunar Landing Near Moon’s South Pole, Shines Amidst Recent Setbacks
Last month, India successfully landed a spaceship near the Moon’s south pole, marking a watershed moment in the country’s low-cost space program. Its triumph came just days after a Russian probe crashed in the same area, and four years after an earlier Indian attempt failed at the final minute.
On Saturday, India also launched a probe carrying scientific instruments on a four-month voyage to investigate the Sun’s outermost layers. Japan’s previous attempts have also failed, most recently when it launched a lunar probe dubbed Omotenashi as part of the United States’ Artemis 1 mission last year.
Omotenashi, the size of a rucksack, would have been the world’s tiniest Moon lander, but it was lost.
In April, the Japanese firm ispace failed in its ambitious ambition to become the first private corporation to land on the Moon, losing contact with its craft following a “hard landing.”
Japan’s launch rockets have also encountered issues, with failures following the launch of the next-generation H3 in March and the generally dependable solid-fuel Epsilon in October.
In July, an Epsilon S rocket, an enhanced variant of the Epsilon, exploded 50 seconds after ignition.
Source: CBS News