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Japan SLIM moon mission update: JAXA releases 1st image, says ‘landing was around 55 metres from target’

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Japan’s “Moon Sniper” craft landed around 55 metres (180 feet) from its target, the country’s space agency said as it released the first images from the Smart Lander for Investigating Moon (SLIM) moon mission. The photo taken by a mini-rover showed the boxy yellow lander sitting intact at a slight angle on the rocky grey surface, lunar slopes rising in the distance.

“SLIM succeeded in a pin-point soft landing… the landing point is confirmed to be 55 metres away from the target point,” space agency JAXA said. The soft lunar landing made Japan only the fifth nation to achieve the feat, after the United States, Soviet Union, China and India. However, the lack of electricity generated by the lightweight spacecraft’s solar batteries put a dampener on the festivities.

 

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Handout photo released on January 25, 2024 shows rocks given nicknames in this mosaic of monochrome images of the lunar surface scan captured by the multi-band spectroscopic camera (MBC) mounted on the private company’s lunar module for the SLIM mission, after landing on the Moon on January 20. (Photo by Handout / various sources / AFP)

Nearly three hours after touchdown, JAXA decided to switch SLIM off with 12 percent power remaining to allow for a possible resumption when the sun’s angle changes. That could be in just a week because the craft’s solar cells are facing west, the agency had said.

The spacecraft is set to seek clues about the origin of the moon, including analyzing minerals with a special camera. The SLIM, equipped with a pad to cushion impact, was aiming to land near the Shioli crater, near a region covered in volcanic rock. By analysing the rocks there, JAXA hopes to shed light on the mystery of the Moon’s possible water resources — key to building bases there one day as possible stopovers on the way to Mars.

The closely watched mission came only 10 days after a moon mission by a US private company failed when the spacecraft developed a fuel leak hours after the launch. SLIM was launched on a Mitsubishi Heavy H2A rocket in September. It initially orbited Earth and entered lunar orbit on 25 December.

 

Hitoshi Kuninaka, Daichi Hirano, Masatsugu Otsuki and Shinichiro Sakai from JAXA, sit in front of a screen showing an image taken by LEV-2 on the moon, during a press conference on SLIM’s moon landing mission, in Tokyo, Japan January 25, 2024. (Image: Reuters)

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Hitoshi Kuninaka, Daichi Hirano, Masatsugu Otsuki and Shinichiro Sakai from JAXA, sit in front of a screen showing an image taken by LEV-2 on the moon, during a press conference on SLIM’s moon landing mission, in Tokyo, Japan January 25, 2024. (Image: Reuters)

SLIM is one of several recent lunar missions by governments and private firms, 50 years after the first human Moon landing. Two previous Japanese lunar missions — one public and one private — had also failed. Earlier in 2022, the country unsuccessfully sent a lunar probe named Omotenashi as part of the United States’s Artemis 1 mission. In April, Japanese startup ispace tried in vain to become the first private company to land on the Moon, losing communication with its craft after what it described as a “hard landing”.

(With inputs from AFP, Reuters)

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Published: 25 Jan 2024, 01:06 PM IST

https://www.livemint.com/science/japan-slim-moon-mission-update-jaxa-releases-1st-image-says-landing-was-around-55-metres-from-target-11706166245572.html

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