Infostani International: Japan aims to be the fifth country to land on the moon with the precision landing mission of the “moon sniper” probe, SLIM, scheduled for Friday. Despite setbacks, Japan’s space aspirations align with its expanding global role, including collaborations with India and advancements in lunar exploration.
Japan’s Lunar Precision Quest: The “Moon Sniper” Mission and Future Space Aspirations
Japan aims to become the fifth country to land a spacecraft on the moon on Friday, attempting a precision landing in what could boost its space program overshadowed by China. The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) is calling its probe the “moon sniper,” seeking to land within 100 meters of its target, a feat JAXA claims is unprecedented and crucial for exploring moon water and potential human habitability.
As Japan looks to expand its role in space, it collaborates with ally Washington to counter China’s military and technological advancements, especially in space. Japan, home to various private-sector space startups, aspires to send an astronaut to the moon through NASA’s Artemis program.
Despite facing setbacks, including a launch failure of the flagship rocket H3 in March, JAXA remains determined. The Smart Lander for Investigating Moon (SLIM) probe, scheduled to initiate a 20-minute touchdown phase from midnight on Saturday, aims to land on a site roughly the size of two athletic tracks on the slope of a lunar crater.
JAXA emphasizes the importance of its high-precision technology, positioning it as a valuable tool for future exploration of hilly moon poles, potentially rich in oxygen, fuel, and water. Japan plans a joint lunar exploration with India in 2025, focusing on developing sought-after technologies like pinpoint landing and near-infrared cameras.
Japan’s Lunar Exploration Challenges and Technological Advances
While acknowledging that Japan may not match other nations in lunar project resources, Kazuto Saiki, a Ritsumeikan University professor, stresses the significance of building technologies that overseas exploration projects will seek to adopt.
Japan, having successfully landed on small asteroids twice, faces greater challenges with a moon landing due to its gravity, evident in recent failures. SLIM’s precision landing, while not a game-changer, could make moon missions more accessible worldwide by reducing costs, according to Bleddyn Bowen, a University of Leicester associate professor.
JAXA plans to verify SLIM’s high-precision goals within a month after the touchdown. Upon landing, SLIM will deploy two mini-probes—a hopping vehicle and a wheeled rover—jointly developed by tech giant Sony Group, toymaker Tomy, and several Japanese universities.