Japan Makes Historic Moon Landing with SLIM Mission Despite Solar Panel Setback

Japan Makes Historic Moon Landing with SLIM Mission Despite Solar Panel Setback

TOKYO -Japan has successfully landed a spacecraft on the moon, becoming the fifth country in history to do so. The Smart Lander for Investigating Moon (SLIM) made a soft landing on the lunar surface early Saturday, marking a significant milestone for Japan's space program. However, space officials are facing challenges as they analyze whether the mission's priority of achieving a pinpoint landing was accomplished.

The SLIM's solar panel encountered a failure, impacting its ability to generate power and potentially shortening its activity on the moon. Despite this setback, small rovers launched from the spacecraft are believed to be transmitting data back to Earth, according to Hitoshi Kuninaka, head of the Institute of Space and Astronautical Science. He emphasized the urgency of the craft gathering as much data as possible with its remaining battery life.

While awaiting confirmation on the pinpoint landing, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida expressed delight in the achievement, pledging continued government support for space exploration endeavors. NASA Administrator Bill Nelson also congratulated Japan, highlighting the collaborative efforts in the U.S.-led Artemis Moon exploration.

SLIM, nicknamed "the Moon Sniper," employed advanced "pinpoint landing" technology, aiming for a target of just 100 meters (330 feet), a world's first if achieved. This precision landing is crucial for developing a sustainable and accurate space probe system, according to Hiroshi Yamakawa, president of Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA).

The mission, representing two decades of precision technology work by JAXA, aimed to explore the moon's origin and gather valuable data about lunar minerals. The closely watched mission comes shortly after a recent U.S. private company's moon mission failure due to a fuel leak.

Japan's space program seeks to rebuild confidence after recent setbacks, including a lunar landing attempt failure and a flagship rocket's debut launch failure. The successful landing by SLIM could enhance Japan's global standing in the competitive space technology race, showcasing its consistency in precision landing capabilities.

Takeshi Tsuchiya, aeronautics professor at the University of Tokyo, emphasized the importance of demonstrating Japan's technological prowess in lunar development for resource exploration and potential use as a base for missions to other planets. The autonomous probes accompanying SLIM, including recording and camera-equipped vehicles, add to the significance of Japan's lunar exploration efforts.

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