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Japan’s Historic Lunar Landing: Smart Lander SLIM to Touch Down on the Moon on January 20, 2024

Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) Sets Ambitious Target for the First-Ever Soft Lunar Landing

Japan is poised to make lunar-exploration history with its Smart Lander for Investigating Moon (SLIM), announced by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) on December 5. The robotic spacecraft is set to make a groundbreaking soft landing on the moon’s surface on January 20, 2024. This achievement would make Japan the fifth nation, following Russia, the United States, China, and India, to accomplish this feat.

Initially scheduled for January or February 2024, the lunar landing date was moved up due to the smooth progress of operations, and the revised target date is now January 20, 2024. SLIM, with a length of 2.7 meters, launched alongside the X-Ray Imaging and Spectroscopy Mission (XRISM) aboard a domestically produced H-IIA rocket in September. JAXA stated that the SLIM craft is currently “operating smoothly.”

The precision landing goal for SLIM is remarkable, aiming for an accuracy of less than 100 meters, which would be an unprecedented achievement on a celestial body like the moon. The mission also carries the moniker “Moon Sniper” in Japanese.

However, Japan has faced setbacks in its lunar exploration efforts in the past. Communication loss with the OMOTENASHI lander led to an aborted landing attempt in November. Additionally, the Hakuto-R Mission 1 lander, operated by the Japanese startup ispace, experienced a crash in April during its lunar descent.

JAXA outlined contingency plans, noting that if the landing faces a setback, the next opportunity is earmarked around February 16, 2024. Success in this mission could have significant implications for international space exploration endeavors.

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