Japan’s Lunar Odyssey: Facing the Pulse-Pounding Challenge of the 20 Minutes of Heart-Stopping Moon Landing

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The Smart Lander for Investigating Moon (SLIM) project, which is aimed at a precise lunar landing inside the Shioli Crater, is about to become a historic accomplishment for Japan’s space agency, JAXA. 

Set to take place on Friday, January 19, at 10:20 am ET, SLIM aims to position itself within an impressive 328 feet (100 meters) of its intended target, showcasing advanced precision landing technology.

The mission incorporates cutting-edge features, including an advanced guidance and navigation system equipped with preloaded maps, radar, and image processing algorithms. This technology ensures precise trajectory accuracy during the landing procedure, marking a significant leap in lunar exploration capabilities.

SLIM is further equipped with a high-performance propulsion system, allowing for meticulous adjustments to approach vectors. This capability enables the spacecraft to fine-tune its direction and speed as it nears the lunar surface, contributing to the accuracy of the soft landing.

Initiated in 2013, the SLIM project is entering a critical phase with a landing procedure lasting no longer than 20 minutes. During this period, mission controllers on Earth will relinquish control to SLIM’s autonomous functions, underscoring the sophistication of the spacecraft’s design.

Japan Lunar Touchdown

japan's-lunar-odyssey-facing-the-pulse-pounding-challenge-of-the-20-minutes-of-heart-stopping-moon-landing
The Smart Lander for Investigating Moon (SLIM) project, which is aimed at a precise lunar landing inside the Shioli Crater, is about to become a historic accomplishment for Japan’s space agency, JAXA.

The landing is scheduled to commence at approximately 10 am ET, with SLIM descending from an altitude of 9.3 miles (15 kilometers) at an impressive speed of 3,800 miles per hour (1,700 meters per second). The landing target ellipse measures 328 feet by 328 feet (100 meters by 100 meters).

The primary mission objective for SLIM is to test new precision landing technology, potentially paving the way for pinpoint landings not only on the Moon but also on other celestial bodies like Mars’ moons. Equipped with scientific instruments, SLIM carries a thermometer, radiation detector, and devices for measuring slopes and elevation.

In pursuit of its ambitious objectives, SLIM aims to deploy a duo of compact rovers, exemplifying Japan’s dedication to the progression of lunar exploration. This initiative underscores Japan’s commitment to advancing and contributing to the field of lunar exploration.

Launched on September 6, 2023, atop Mitsubishi’s H-IIA rocket, SLIM represents a significant step forward in precision landing technology, holding the promise of shaping the future of space exploration.

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