TOKYO: On Thursday morning, Japan successfully launched the H-IIA rocket carrying the moon lander of the national space agency, following three postponements last month due to unfavorable weather conditions.
The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (
) confirmed that the rocket lifted off as scheduled from the Tanegashima Space Center in southern Japan. Mitsubishi Heavy Industries was responsible for manufacturing the rocket and overseeing the launch.
This rocket is transporting JAXA’s Smart Lander for Investigating Moon (SLIM) spacecraft, affectionately known as the “moon sniper” due to its experimental precision landing technology. SLIM’s planned lunar landing is set to take place early next year.
In addition to the lunar lander, the rocket also transported a research satellite developed by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), in collaboration with NASA and the European Space Agency.
Japan’s compact lunar lander, officially named the Smart Lander for Investigating Moon (SLIM), is engineered to achieve a landing within a remarkably precise range of 100 meters from its designated target on the lunar surface. This precision is far superior to the typical landing range of several kilometers on the Moon.
JAXA highlighted the significance of SLIM, stating, “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.” Furthermore, the success of SLIM could pave the way for future landings on celestial bodies with even scarcer resources than the Moon.
Globally, JAXA noted that “there are no previous instances of pinpoint landing on celestial bodies with significant gravity such as the Moon.”
This launch comes just two weeks after India achieved the distinction of becoming the fourth nation to successfully land a spacecraft on the moon with its Chandrayaan-3 mission, targeting the lunar south pole.
Japan has faced challenges in previous attempts to land on the moon over the past year. JAXA encountered communication issues with a lander carried by a NASA rocket, leading to the cancellation of a landing attempt in November. Additionally, a lander developed by a Japanese startup, ispace, crashed in April during its descent to the lunar surface.
(With inputs from agencies