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Japanese Lunar Lander – Key Features, Challenges, and Future Scope of SLIM!

Written by The Anand Market

Updated on:

The Japanese lander SLIM (Smart Lander for Investigating Moon) has bounced back. Yesterday, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) announced that it had successfully reestablished connection with SLIM after its bumpy landing on January 19, 2024.

Japanese lunar lander

In 2023, Japan launched two Moon Landers to improve the quality of space exploration. One is SLIM and the other is HAKUTO-R but unfortunately it crashed on the moon surface on April 25, 2023.

Despite this, Haruto provided spectacular images of Earth and valuable data for future projects. Now let’s move on to the Japanese SLIM lunar landers which were awakened after their rocky landing.

Mission NameA smart lander to investigate the Moon
Nickname Lunar Sniper
TypeLunar lander and rover
OperatorJAXA
Duration4 months, 24 days (elapsed) (since launch) 10 days (since landing)
Release date September 6.23 (23:42:11 UTC)
RocketH-IIA 202
Launch siteTanegashima Space Center
Orbital insertion December 25, 2023 (7:51 a.m. UTC)
Target siteSinus Amoris near the western edge of the moon
Landing dateJanuary 19, 2024 (3:20 p.m. UTC)
Landing siteNear the Shioli crater
StatusOperational (currently in lunar night)

Japan successfully launched XRISM on September 6, 2023, and later that day, SLIM separated from XRISM. It was planned to land near a crater named Shioli (a Japanese female first name) located approximately 200 miles south of the Sea of ​​Tranquility via a trajectory similar to a weak stability boundary.

Main Features of SLIM (Japanese Moon Lander)

  • Lightweight design: Weighing only 590 kg, SLIM is significantly smaller and lighter than previous lunar landers. This allows for greater fuel efficiency and precise landings.
  • High-precision landing system: SLIM uses a sophisticated navigation system and thruster control technology to achieve a precise landing within the 100-meter-long projected landing eclipse. This earned him the nickname “Moon Sniper”.
  • Equipped scientific instruments: SLIM is equipped with numerous scientific instruments to analyze the composition of the lunar soil, measure surface radiation and study the lunar atmosphere. It is equipped with a multi-brand camera to capture images of the lunar surface. The JAXA agency has already shared some images of X captured by SLIM.
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japanese lunar lander

SLIM – Japanese challenges on the lunar lander

On January 19, 2024, SLIM landed on the lunar surface, but due to a propellant malfunction during descent, it landed upside down, resulting in nine difficult days. Due to its upside-down landing, its solar panels face the sunlight, the source of life. It survived on its batteries for two hours and sent previous data and images before going silent.

The agency said it shut down the explorer to save its energy until it automatically regenerated it using solar panels.

After 10 days, on Monday, JAXA managed to re-establish connection with SLIM and regain its power.

And now Japanese scientists are racing with time to extract every piece of scientific data and information before it fades into darkness again, because it was not designed to survive the lunar night. Lunar night lasts about 14 days when the moon’s surface is not exposed to sunlight.

Future Range of the Japanese Lunar Lander (SLIM)

SLIM has set several ambitious goals, pushing the boundaries of lunar exploration and paving the way for future collaboration.

It serves as a crucial test bed for technologies that will be essential to future lunar missions exploring the hilly lunar poles. It provided valuable insight into what can work and what needs to be improved for future projects.

JAXA, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, is actively seeking to collaborate with international partners to explore the Moon. The success of SLIM may pave the way for new partnerships in global cooperation to develop space exploration.

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Before Japan, India was the last country to land on the unexplored part of the Moon’s south pole thanks to Chandraya 3. We can expect new scientific data that will help unlock the secret of the Moon.

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