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IPFS News Link • Space Travel and Exploration

Japan Three Weeks From Precision Moon Landing Attempt

•, by Brian Wang

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 600km at the closest point to the Moon (perilune), and 4,000km 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. On January 19, the perilune point will be lowered to an altitude of 15km, and the descent towards the Moon will start at around 0:00am (JST) on January 20. Landing on the lunar surface is scheduled for around 0:20am (JST) on January 20.

SLIM is Japan's first lunar surface mission, and aims to demonstrate precise, pinpoint lunar landing. During its descent to the Moon, the lander will recognize lunar craters by applying technology from facial recognition systems, and determine its current location from utilizing observation data collected by the SELENE (Kaguya) lunar orbiter mission. SLIM aims to soft land with an accuracy range of 100 m (330 ft). In comparison, the accuracy of the 1969 Apollo 11 Eagle lunar module was an elliptic which was 20 km (12 mi) long in downrange and 5 km (3.1 mi) wide in crossrange. According to Yoshifumi Inatani, deputy director general of the JAXA Institute of Space and Astronautical Science (ISAS), succeeding in this extremely precise landing will lead to enhanced quality of space exploration.

The expected cost for developing this project is 18 billion yen (about $150 million).

The Smart Lander for Investigating Moon (SLIM), which was launched on September 7, 2023, is currently operating smoothly.

This is a lunar lander that aims to achieve a lightweight probe system on a small scale and use the pinpoint landing technology necessary for future lunar probes. The project will aim to cut weight for higher function observational equipment and to land on resource scarce planets with an eye towards future solar system research probes.