Japan launched a lunar exploration spacecraft – the Smart Lander for Investigating Moon (SLIM) – on Thursday aboard a homegrown H-IIA rocket, from the southern island of Tanegashima. It’s a $US100 million ($156 million) mission. This is the nation’s third attempt to reach the Moon. The H-IIA rocket launched on Thursday also carried the X-Ray Imaging and Spectroscopy Mission (XRISM) satellite, a joint project of JAXA, NASA and the European Space Agency. After a lomg fuel-efficient approach trajectory, the landing is expected by February.
“The big objective of SLIM is to prove the high-accuracy landing … to achieve ‘landing where we want’ on the lunar surface, rather than ‘landing where we can’,” JAXA President Hiroshi Yamakawa told a news conference. The mission is significant for delivering insight into the properties of hot plasma, or the superheated matter that makes up much of the universe. Lander’S primary goal is to test advanced optical and image processing technology. Japan plans to send astronauts to the Moon in the late 2020s.