Science and Tech
Japan’s SLIM lander shares 1st Moon images from lunar orbit
TOKYO — Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency’s (JAXA) Smart Lander for Investigating Moon (SLIM) moon lander has shared first images of the lunar surface from the Moon’s orbit.
The 2.7 metres SLIM launched on September 6 along with XRISM, a powerful X-ray space telescope. It successfully entered lunar orbit on Christmas day, successfully setting the stage for the nation’s first-ever moon landing on January 20, 2024, the agency said.
The image shared by JAXA on X is monochrome, and details images of the crater-pocketed moon surface.
The images were created after the spacecraft was successfully inserted into lunar orbit at 4:51 p.m. Japan time on December 25.
“SLIM successfully completed main engine injection at 16:51 and successfully entered lunar orbit! Below is an image sent from SLIM near the moon,” JAXA officials wrote.
If successful to make a landing, Japan will become just the fifth country to successfully soft-land on the Moon, after Russia, US, China and India.
JAXA had said that the lunar orbit of SLIM will be inserted into an elliptical lunar orbit connecting the Moon’s north and south poles with a period of approximately 6.4 hours, and altitude of about 600 km at the closest point to the Moon (perilune), and 4,000 km at the furthest point from the Moon (apolune).
The orbit change proceeded as planned, and the spacecraft is currently in a normal condition.
“From now until mid-January 2024, the apolune point will be lowered, and the orbit adjusted to a circular orbit at an altitude of approximately 600km. The perilune point will then lower and preparations for landing will begin,” the update read.
“On January 19, the perilune point will be lowered to an altitude of 15 km, and the descent towards the Moon will start at around 0:00 am (JST) on January 20. Landing on the lunar surface is scheduled for around 0:20 am (JST) on January 20”.
The agency had earlier noted that if the landing is not executed at the scheduled timing “a next opportunity is scheduled around February 16, 2024”.
Japan has previously failed in two lunar landing attempts. JAXA lost contact with the OMOTENASHI lander and scrubbed an attempted landing in November, while the Hakuto-R Mission 1 lander, by Japanese startup ispace, crashed in April as it attempted to descend to the lunar surface.