Japanse maanlander wordt wakker (2) infographic
Graphic shows Japan’s “moon sniper” mission


Japanse maanlander hervat missie (2)

By Jordi Bou

January 19, 2024 - Japan is on final approach to become only the fifth country to land on the moon, in what would be a reversal of fortunes as it attempts to join a global space race centred on unravelling the mysteries of the lunar landscape.

If all goes to plan, the Smart Lander for Investigating Moon (SLIM) will begin its descent to the rocky lunar surface at midnight on January 19 (15:00 GMT) before touching down about 20 minutes later, according to the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA).

The mission's primary objective is to test pinpoint landing technology, aiming for an accuracy of less than 100 meters. This level of precision is unprecedented for a gravitational body like the moon and could significantly enhance the quality of data collected during future missions.

HIRANO Daichi developed LEV-2 at JAXA, and worked with toy manufacturer Tomy and researchers at Doshisha University to design the probe with the same shape-changing mechanics used in children's toys, and with Sony Group to develop the cameras.

SLIM is designed to land no more than 100 metres from its targeted site. That's a giant leap from the conventional accuracy of several kilometres for lunar landers.

SLIM is set to land on the slope of the Shioli crater near lunar sea Mare Nectaris. The site was selected based on high-resolution images from lunar orbiters

On landing, SLIM will also deploy two mini-probes – a hopping vehicle as big as a microwave oven and a tennis-sized wheeled rover – hat will take pictures of the spacecraft. Tech giant Sony Group, toymaker Tomy and several Japanese universities jointly developed the robots.

India's Chandrayaan-3 in August made a historic touchdown on the moon's south pole, a major technological feat given the rough terrain, highlighting India's rise as a major player in space.

PUBLISHED: 29/01/2024; STORY: Graphic News; PICTURES: JAXA