On Thursday, Japan successfully initiated a lunar mission, surmounting several setbacks caused by adverse weather condition
The H2-A rocket blasted off from the Tanegashima Space Center in southern Japan, Japan’s space agency (JAXA) announced.
The rocket is carrying the country’s “moon sniper” lander, which is expected to touch down on moon’s surface in four to six months.
Japan’s attempt at precision landing
Japan’s lander, officially called the Smart Lander for Investigating Moon (SLIM), is designed to land within 100 meters (328 feet) of a specific target on the moon. This is far less than the usual range of several kilometers.
“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,” JAXA said before the launch.
Globally, “there are no previous instances of pinpoint landing on celestial bodies with significant gravity such as the moon,” the space agency said.
JAXA added that such precision landing will open up a future where landing can happen on planets with fewer resources than the moon.
The rocket is also carrying a research satellite developed by JAXA, NASA and the European Space Agency.
The research satellite is expected to observe the hot gas plasma wind that blows through the universe. This will help understand the flow of mass and energy as well as the composition and evolution of celestial objects.
Japan hopes for success after multiple failed attempts
Several lunar landing attempts by Japan have failed, including last year when it sent a probe called Omotenashi as part of the US Artemis program.
Omotenashi would have been the world’s smallest moon lander, but it lost contact.
In April, a Japanese start-up called ispace failed in an ambitious attempt to become the first private company to land on the moon.
Japan’s launch on Thursday comes two weeks after India, in a historic triumph, landed a spacecraft called Chandrayaan-3 near the moon’s south pole.
India is the first country to land a probe on the south pole. Besides India, the US, Russia and China are the only countries to have safely land a spacecraft on the moon.