Japan’s ‘Slim’ Lunar Lander Successfully Entered ‘Lunar Transfer’ Orbit, Will Make First Approach to the Moon Today – Long Mission Expected to Touch Down Weeks From Now

Japan is one step closer to joining the Moon Landing club.

The Japanese Moon Mission accomplished a major milestone this week, as the lunar module – the Smart Lander for Investigating the Moon (SLIM) – has successfully entered what is called the ‘lunar transfer orbit’ and is now heading towards its final destination: Earth’s satellite.

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) announced that the SLIM spacecraft performed a successful engine burn to leave Earth’s orbit on Saturday (30).

Sputnik reported:

“‘The SLIM transitioned into the Lunar transfer orbit to head towards the Moon after successfully changing orbit at 2:40 am on October 1, 2023 (JST) [17:40 GMT, Saturday]’, the space agency stated.”

The Mission was launched on September 7 from the Tanegashima Space Center. It was initially scheduled for August 26, but was postponed twice, due to weather conditions.

“The lunar module is expected to orbit the Moon for 3-4 months after the launch and to land on its surface 4-6 months later. SLIM carries two vehicles: LEV1, which is expected to take pictures of the Moon’s surface, and LEV2, which is an extremely small lunar rover that is expected to scan the lunar orbit. SLIM itself will be engaged in astronomical observations.

If the module lands successfully and completes its tasks, the mission’s data will be transferred to NASA to assist in planning the US Artemis-1 lunar mission. Japan would also become the fifth country to land a module on the Moon.”

The ‘SLIM’ lander was launched along with a powerful X-ray telescope called XRISM, which remains in Earth’s Orbit.

This is the Japanese space agency’s first launch since the failure of the new H3 rocket, back in March.

Space.com reported:

“SLIM fired its main engine for 39 seconds on Saturday, while it was flying about 410 miles (660 kilometers) above the South Atlantic Ocean, JAXA officials said via X (formerly Twitter). If all goes according to plan, the probe will have its first encounter with the moon on Wednesday (Oct. 4), they added.”

The Japanese team sent SLIM on the way to the moon with the engine burn, while the XRISM Telescope will remain in Earth orbit.

“After implementing any necessary corrective maneuvers, we plan to have the first meeting with the moon on the afternoon of October 4!” the SLIM team wrote in another X post today. 

SLIM’s touchdown try is still a ways away; Wednesday’s “meeting” will be a lunar swing-by, one more step on the probe’s long, looping and fuel-efficient journey to the moon. JAXA officials have said that SLIM will likely arrive in lunar orbit three to four months after launch, with the landing attempt coming a month or two after that.”

Only the US, the Soviet Union, China and India have managed to achieve a soft landing on the moon. Now, Japan aims to join this very exclusive club.

SLIM’s landing aims to land within a mere 328 feet (100 meters) of its target point inside the small crater on the moon’s near side.

That’s why the probe got its ‘moon sniper’ nickname.

“The ability to make such precise landings could allow future missions to access challenging but scientifically intriguing sites on the moon and other worlds beyond Earth, JAXA officials have said.”

Read more about it:

Japan Launches Lunar Mission With ‘SLIM’ Moon Lander and ‘XRISM’ X-Ray Telescope, In a Bid To Join the Space Superpowers Club

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