Japan’s ambitious lunar exploration mission, the Smart Lander for Investigating Moon (SLIM), also known as the “Moon Sniper,” has achieved a significant milestone by successfully entering the moon’s orbit, according to the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA). The SLIM, designed for an unprecedentedly high-precision landing within 100 meters of a specific target on the lunar surface, aims to make Japan the fifth country to achieve a successful lunar probe landing.
The trajectory shift and conditions of the probe are reported to be in line with the original plan, marking a crucial step toward the mission’s success. If the landing is successful, Japan will join the exclusive group of nations—United States, Russia, China, and India—that have accomplished lunar probe landings.
The lander’s descent towards the moon is scheduled to commence around 12:00 am Japan time on January 20, with the anticipated landing on the lunar surface just 20 minutes later. The SLIM mission has been characterized as an “unprecedentedly high precision landing,” and its innovative approach includes a spherical probe developed by a toy company, capable of changing shape to navigate the lunar surface.
SLIM’s remarkable precision, with a purported margin of error under 100 meters, represents a significant technological advancement. The mission’s success could pave the way for accurate targeting of specific lunar features such as craters and rocks, bringing scientists closer to understanding water resources on the moon.
The mission manager, Shinichiro Sakai, highlighted the evolution in lunar exploration goals, emphasizing that the days of exploring “somewhere on the moon” are behind us. The SLIM mission’s exactitude is expected to facilitate the sampling of lunar permafrost, contributing to unraveling the mysteries surrounding water resources on the moon.
Japan has faced previous setbacks in lunar exploration, including an unsuccessful lunar probe named Omotenashi in the Artemis 1 mission and a private company’s (ispace) unsuccessful landing attempt in April. The SLIM mission represents a significant advancement in Japan’s lunar exploration efforts, signaling a new era of precision in space exploration technology.