A successful launch follows India’s Chandrayaan-3 mission, which made it the fourth country to set foot on the moon.
Japan is attempting to become the fifth nation in history to set foot on the moon by launching a rocket carrying its lunar exploration spacecraft.
The Smart Lander for Investigating Moon (SLIM) was successfully released on Thursday after taking off on a homegrown H-IIA rocket from Tanegashima Space Center in southern Japan, according to the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA).
Last month, unfavorable weather caused three postponements in a row.
Japan’s “Moon Sniper” mission, which is also known as SLIM, intends to land within 100 meters (328 feet) of its target location on the lunar surface.
That is considerably smaller than the typical range of a few kilometers.
The Japanese space agency JAXA stated before the launch that “by developing the SLIM lander, humans will make a qualitative shift towards being able to land where we want and not just where it is easy to land.” By accomplishing this, it will be feasible to set foot on worlds that have even fewer resources than the Moon.
According to JAXA, “there are no previous instances of pinpoint landing on celestial bodies with significant gravity such as the Moon” globally.
By February of next year, the $100 million mission is anticipated to have arrived at the moon.
The United States, Russia, China, and India are the only four countries to have accomplished successful moon landings.
India’s low-cost space program achieved a historic victory last month when its spacecraft successfully touched down close to the moon’s unexplored south pole.
Days after a Russian probe crashed in the same area, and four years after a previous Indian attempt that was narrowly unsuccessful, India’s Chandrayaan-3 mission became successful.
Japanese initiatives in the past have also failed, such as last year when it sent the Omotenashi lunar probe as part of the Artemis 1 mission of the United States. Omotenashi, which was about the size of a rucksack, would have been the smallest Moon lander ever, but JAXA lost touch with it and cancelled a landing in November.
In April, the Japanese Hakuto-R Mission 1 lander, built by the start-up ispace, similarly disintegrated while attempting to touch down on the moon.
The X-Ray Imaging and Spectroscopy Mission (XRISM) satellite, a collaboration between JAXA, NASA, and the European Space Agency, was also launched on Thursday aboard the H-IIA rocket.
In order to examine how celestial objects were produced and, ideally, help solve the riddle of how the universe was created, the XRISM will measure the speed and make-up of what lies between galaxies.
XRISM is essential for providing insight into the characteristics of hot plasma, or the superheated stuff that makes up much of space, according to David Alexander, director of the Rice Space Institute at Rice University in the US.
Plasmas have the potential to be employed in a variety of applications, such as wound healing, the production of computer chips, and environmental cleansing.
“Understanding the distribution of this hot plasma in space and time, as well as its dynamical motion, will shed light on diverse phenomena, such as black holes, the evolution of chemical elements in the universe, and the formation of galactic clusters,” Alexander said to the news agency The Associated Press.
Mitsubishi Heavy Industries built and ran the H-IIA rocket that launched SLIM and XRISM, making it the 47th launch of such kind by Japan since 2001. The vehicle now has a success record that is around 98 percent.
While it looked into the failure of its brand-new medium-lift H3 rocket during its debut in March, JAXA had put the launch of H-IIA carrying SLIM on hold for a while.
The launch failure of the Epsilon small rocket in October 2022, followed by an engine explosion during a test in July, were additional recent setbacks for Japan’s space programs.