Thursday, September 7, 2023

After three delays, Japan launches a rocket carrying the SLIM moon lander


TOKYO: After three delays last month due to unfavorable weather, Japan's H-IIA rocket carrying the national space agency's moon lander was successfully launched on Thursday morning.

The launch of the rocket from the Tanegashima Space Center in southern Japan, as planned, was confirmed by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA). The rocket was made by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, which also managed the launch.

The JAXA Smart Lander for Investigating the Moon (SLIM) spacecraft, also known as the "moon sniper" because of its experimental precision landing technology, is being transported by this rocket. The planned lunar landing of SLIM is expected to occur early next year.

The rocket carried a research satellite that was developed by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) in collaboration with NASA and the European Space Agency in addition to the lunar lander.

The Smart Lander for Investigating Moon (SLIM), Japan's compact lunar lander, is designed to land within a remarkable range of 100 meters of its designated target on the lunar surface. In comparison to the typical lunar landing range of several kilometers, this precision is significantly superior.

"By creating the SLIM lander, humans will make a qualitative shift towards being able to land where we want and not just where it is easy to land," JAXA emphasized the significance of SLIM. In addition, future landings on celestial bodies with even fewer resources than the Moon may be possible if SLIM is successful.

"There are no previous instances of pinpoint landing on celestial bodies with significant gravity such as the Moon," JAXA stated worldwide.

This launch comes just two weeks after India's Chandrayaan-3 mission, which aimed for the lunar south pole, made it the fourth nation to successfully land a spacecraft on the moon.

Over the past year, Japan's previous attempts to land on the moon have been hampered by obstacles. In November, a landing attempt was canceled because JAXA ran into communication issues with a lander carried by a NASA rocket. In addition, a Japanese startup's lander, ispace, crashed in April while descending to the lunar surface.

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