After several weather-related delays, Japan’s moon lander mission, called SLIM, finally took off on the morning of September 7. Its successful landing would make Japan only the fifth country in the world to touch down safely on the lunar surface, and the first to do it with unusual precision.
The Smart Lander for Investigating Moon (Slim) got its nickname, Sniper, from its ability to land within 100 metres of a specific target on the surface. The distance is much less than the usual range of several kilometres.
The H-IIA rocket carrying Slim lifted off from the southern island of Tanegashima carrying the lander; it is expected to touch down on the lunar surface in early 2024. The Slim probe and the XRISM space research satellite developed with the US and European space agencies both separated soon after the launch.
Only the United States, Russia, China and India have successfully landed a probe on the moon. There have been two failed Japanese missions – one public and one private. With the success of the Slim lander, humans will make a qualitative shift towards being able to land on the moon where they want and not just where it is easy to land, said the Japanese space agency, Jaxa. With the precision landing, it will become possible to land on planets even more resource-scarce than the moon, it added.