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Thu. Apr 25th, 2024

Japan’s SLIM space probe has successfully entered lunar orbit on Monday, marking a crucial milestone towards the nation’s anticipated first lunar landing next month.

Dubbed the “Moon Sniper,” SLIM aims to achieve pinpoint precision, planning to land within 100 meters of a designated lunar target. If successful, Japan will join an elite group, becoming the fifth country to accomplish a lunar probe landing, following the United States, Russia, China, and India.

According to the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), SLIM achieved its trajectory shift as planned, with no anomalies reported in the probe’s conditions during its lunar orbit entry at 04:51 pm Japan time (0751 GMT) on Monday. The descent towards the moon is scheduled to commence at 12:00 am Japan time on January 20, culminating in a landing just 20 minutes later.

The SLIM mission, launched in September atop an H-IIA rocket from Tanegashima, boasts an unprecedented level of precision in lunar landing, with a margin of error under 100 meters. This remarkable accuracy is the result of a 20-year effort by researchers, according to JAXA, surpassing the distances observed by previous lunar probes.

Equipped with a unique spherical probe developed in collaboration with a toy company, SLIM holds promise for advancements in lunar exploration. The probe’s ability to change shape, slightly larger than a tennis ball, enables movement on the lunar surface with exceptional precision. Shinichiro Sakai, JAXA’s SLIM project manager, highlighted the growing demand for precise lunar surface targeting and expressed optimism that SLIM’s exactitude could facilitate the sampling of lunar permafrost, contributing to unraveling the mysteries of water resources on the moon.

Despite previous setbacks, including the unsuccessful Omotenashi lunar probe and a private company’s failed attempt last year, Japan’s current lunar mission represents a culmination of advancements in technology and precision landing capabilities, showcasing the nation’s commitment to lunar exploration and scientific discovery.

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