Japanese ‘Moon Sniper’: SLIM Lander Reaches Lunar Orbit Just in Time for Christmas

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Japan’s SLIM moon lander, a robotic spacecraft, successfully entered lunar orbit on December 25, marking a significant advancement in Japan’s pursuit of its first-ever moon landing. 

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) confirmed the spacecraft’s arrival in lunar orbit at 2:51 a.m. EDT (4:51 p.m. Japan Standard Time, 0751 GMT).

The SLIM spacecraft is now positioned in an elliptical orbit, completing a lunar circle every 6.4 hours. 

This orbit brings it as close as 373 miles (600 kilometers) to the lunar surface at its nearest point and extends out to 2,485 miles (4,000 km) at its farthest.

This successful maneuver sets the stage for SLIM’s planned lunar touchdown on January 19. If accomplished, it would be a historic achievement, as only four nations—the Soviet Union, the US, China, and India—have previously achieved soft landings on the moon.

The SLIM, measuring 8.8 feet (2.7 meters) in length, was launched on September 6, alongside XRISM, a high-powered X-ray space telescope. 

While both spacecraft initially entered Earth orbit, XRISM continues to remain in Earth’s orbit. In contrast, SLIM departed Earth’s gravitational influence on September 30, embarking on an extended, meandering, and energy-efficient trajectory toward the moon.

SLIM Successfully Enters Lunar Orbit, Nearing Historic Moon Landing Attempt

Japanese-Moon-Sniper-SLIM-Slander-Reaches-Lunar-Orbit-Just-Time-For-Christm
Japan’s SLIM moon lander, a robotic spacecraft, successfully entered lunar orbit on December 25, marking a significant advancement in Japan’s pursuit of its first-ever moon landing.

Today marks the conclusion of SLIM’s journey as it successfully maneuvered itself into lunar orbit. 

The probe is now preparing for its upcoming landing attempt, aspiring to fulfill its “Moon Sniper” moniker by achieving a remarkable landing-zone accuracy of 330 feet (100 m) or less. 

This precise landing aims to lay the groundwork for future ambitious exploration endeavors.

Upon successful execution of the plan, SLIM will deploy two mini probes onto the lunar surface post-landing. 

These auxiliary craft will be responsible for capturing images, assisting mission team monitoring of SLIM’s status, and serving as an independent communication system for direct communication with Earth, as outlined in the SLIM mission’s press kit by JAXA officials.

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