The SLIM (Smart Lander for Investing Moon) probe was launched in September. With it, the rocket carried the X-ray Observatory XRISM (X-ray Imaging and Spectroscopy Mission) into space, which was created in cooperation between the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), NASA and the European Space Agency. The telescope will explore the universe using high-energy X-ray light, and the SLIM probe will attempt to land on the Moon. If the SLIM maneuver succeeds, Japan will become the fifth country, after the United States, Russia, China and India, to succeed in landing a probe on the surface of the moon.
The SLIM lander entered Silver Globe orbit on Monday, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency said. “The change in course was implemented as originally planned,” the agency said in a statement. This plan also assumes that the landing attempt will take place on January 20.
Although the mission launched in September, it has only now reached our natural satellite. Japanese engineers sent the probe via a slightly further but more economical route. However, before attempting a landing, the spacecraft will observe the lunar surface. SLIM is scheduled to land in Shiuli Crater – a 300-metre-wide impact facility located on the side of the Moon and visible from Earth.
The SLIM is only 2.4 meters high, 2.7 meters long and 1.7 meters wide. Its mass is about 700 kg but approximately 70%. This mass forms the fuel. It carries in its stomach two small spherical probes that will be launched on the surface of the moon after landing. They are about the size of a tennis ball and can change shape to make it easier to move on the surface of the silver ball. According to the mission's press materials, these two small rovers will help the mission team monitor the status of the larger lander, take photos of the landing site and provide an “autonomous system for direct communication with Earth.”
According to the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency's announcement, the mission will be “a landing on the moon with unprecedented precision.” The probe is scheduled to land at a distance of 100 meters from a pre-determined point in Shiuli Crater. The goal is to demonstrate precise landing technology that could open the way to landing and exploring other objects.
– When creating the SLIM lander, the goal was to bring about a qualitative change towards the ability to land where we want, and not where it is easy to land, as has been the case until now – representatives of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency wrote in the description of the mission.
Japan has already attempted to land on the moon. At the end of April, the Hakuto-R lander of Tokyo-based iSpace reached lunar orbit, which was a major achievement for a private spacecraft, but it crashed while trying to land (more about this in the text: The Hakuto-R special lander crashed while attempting to land on the moon).
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