Japan’s Lunar Lander Lands on Moon, Mission Status Unknown

Japan’s Moon Sniper robotic explorer has landed on the lunar surface, but the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) is still determining its condition. The uncrewed Smart Lander for Investigating Moon (SLIM) mission landed on Friday, January 19, JAXA is currently assessing its status for future updates.

If successful, Japan would be the third country this century and the fifth ever to achieve a safe lunar landing. SLIM, nicknamed Moon Sniper, demonstrated precision technology for a pinpoint landing on a 100-meter landing site using its “smart eyes” image-matching navigation.

The landing site is near the Shioli crater in the Sea of Nectar, south of the Sea of Tranquility where Apollo 11 landed. The mission aims to study rocks for insights into the moon’s origin, examining debris created by meteorites and other impacts.

Despite the hazardous nature of landing near rocky, sloped areas, JAXA is confident in the lander’s technology. The lunar space race has seen attempts and outcomes from various countries, with India achieving a controlled landing, while others faced failures.

The motivation behind lunar exploration includes accessing water in permanently shadowed regions for future human space exploration needs. If successful, the lightweight SLIM lander could serve as an effective design for small-scale lunar and planetary landings, including Mars, according to JAXA.

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