March 3, 2024

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Japanese Moon Sniper lander reaches lunar orbit

Japanese Moon Sniper lander reaches lunar orbit

Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency

A flight model of the JAXA Moon Sniper lunar lander, or Smart Lander, for investigating the moon, is shown at Mitsubishi Electric Corporation's Kamakura plant in Japan on January 25.

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the Lunar Sniper lander. The spacecraft developed by the Japanese Aerospace Agency successfully entered lunar orbit on Christmas Day. This achievement brings the nation a step closer to achieving its goal of landing a robotic explorer on the moon for the first time.

On its current trajectory, the lander completes one orbit around the Moon approximately every 6.4 hours. But over the next few weeks, the spacecraft will slowly tighten its orbit, diving closer to the moon's surface as it prepares for its historic landing attempt, scheduled for mid-January.

If successful, Japan will become only the fifth country to achieve such a feat and only the third country to do so in the 21st century.

China And India They are currently the only countries to have safely landed a rover on the Moon's surface this century, marking the emergence of a new lunar race characterized in part by efforts to identify the Moon's natural resources and harness them for future long-term manned missions.

The Japanese robotic explorer will attempt to demonstrate a “precision” landing, aiming to land with extreme precision and collect data about lunar rocks that could help scientists better understand the moon's composition.

Heading for landing

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, or JAXA, announced on December 25 that the lunar lander had been placed in an elliptical orbit, sending it on a path that would pass over the moon's north and south poles at altitudes ranging from about 370 miles (600 kilometers) to 2,500. miles (4000 kilometers).

Over the next three and a half weeks, the spacecraft's orbit will take it approximately 9 miles (15 kilometers) above the surface when it begins its final descent.

Moon Sniper Lander – Also referred to as SLIM, or Intelligent lander for lunar exploration – It will attempt a soft landing at 10:20 AM ET on January 19, or 12:20 AM on January 20 JST.

The lightweight SLIM lander will target a landing zone extending about 328 feet (100 meters), rather than the typical kilometer range.

The accuracy led to the mission's nickname, Moon Sniper.

If it reaches the moon's surface, SLIM is expected to explore a site near a small impact crater called Chiuli — near the Apollo 11 landing site where NASA astronauts first landed in 1969.

The United States remains the only country to have landed humans on the Moon, but NASA has not landed astronauts or robotic vehicles on the Moon since then. Apollo 17 mission in 1972.

Both were developed by the private sector Space ship From a Japan-based company, Ispace, and Lunar landing The Russian space agency Roscosmos, which launched it, made a landing attempt in 2023, but it ended in failure.

Each robotic vehicle landed after experiencing navigation problems.

A lunar lander developed by the Indian space agency, the Indian Space Research Organization, successfully touched down in August, making it the fourth country to do so after the United States, China and the former Soviet Union.

India's spacecraft has landed near the moon's south pole, where scientists believe there are valuable reserves of water ice, making it the first country to send a rover close to the region.

A year of landing missions on the moon

After Japan's Moon Sniper spacecraft attempted a landing, the United States aims to launch up to three robotic rovers to the moon's surface next year.

NASA intends to send astronauts into orbit around the moon in late 2024.

If you succeed, Artemis II mission That would pave the way for another mission that could land humans on the moon later this decade.

NASA's crewed Artemis III mission could be the first time astronauts have returned to the lunar surface since the 1970s.

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