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Japan Becomes Fifth Country To Land On The Moon Successfully

Japan has marked a significant achievement in space exploration by becoming the fifth country to successfully soft-land a spacecraft on the Moon. The Smart Lander for Investigating Moon (SLIM) touched down near the Shioli crater, south of the lunar equator, utilizing precision technology that allowed it to land closer to its target site than any previous mission.

Lunar Arrival and Power Struggle

Telemetry data confirmed that SLIM landed in its designated area after a four-month journey from the Tanegashima Space Centre. Despite the successful landing, a potential setback arose as the spacecraft experienced a power failure. The solar cells were not generating electricity, and SLIM was operating solely on its battery, which was estimated to last only a few more hours.

Communication and Hope for Recovery

Hitoshi Kuninaka, vice president of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), stated that SLIM had been communicating with the ground station and responding to commands accurately. However, the fate of the spacecraft hangs in the balance as scientists monitor the situation, holding out hope that the solar panels might start working again.

Asia’s Success in Lunar Exploration

Namrata Goswami, a space-policy researcher at Arizona State University, emphasized the significance of this achievement, considering it a “big win for Asia.” Only China, India, and Japan have successfully landed spacecraft on the Moon in the past decade, with India achieving its success just last August.

Innovative Technology at Play

SLIM’s primary goal was to achieve an unprecedented landing accuracy of 100 meters, a significant improvement from previous missions. The spacecraft utilized vision-based navigation technology, imaging the lunar surface as it flew over, and quickly locating itself by matching images with onboard maps.

Two-Step Landing Approach

SLIM employed an innovative two-step landing approach. Unlike previous crafts that landed on four legs simultaneously on a flat area, SLIM was designed to hit a 15-degree slope outside Shioli crater first with one leg at the back before stabilizing on the four front legs. Observers suggest that SLIM might have rolled during its touchdown, impacting its solar cells.

Scientific Goals and Potential Recovery

Two small robots were intended to eject from SLIM before touchdown to capture images of the lander. Scientists hope to use SLIM’s specialized camera to search for a mineral called olivine in the Moon’s mantle. If SLIM can recover, it could contribute valuable data about the Moon’s history and chemistry.

Moon Rush and International Competition

SLIM’s success positions Japan well in the race to contribute to the US-led Artemis Program, which aims to return humans to the Moon by 2026. The precise landing technology may serve as a Japanese contribution to international space cooperation. However, this success could also intensify the competition between spacefaring nations in Asia, particularly with China’s Chang’e-7 mission in the lunar south pole region.

Future Moon Missions

The Moon is currently witnessing increased exploration activities. SLIM’s landing was the second attempt this year, following the US Peregrine spacecraft. In the coming months, the US company Intuitive Machines plans to make a commercial landing on the Moon, while China prepares for its Chang’e-6 mission to collect samples from the far side of the Moon. The global interest in lunar exploration continues to grow, with each mission contributing to our understanding of the Moon’s mysteries.

Exam-Related Questions

1. Which nation achieves the milestone of being the fifth to successfully land on the Moon?

2. Where did SLIM touch down on the Moon’s surface?

3. Which technology did SLIM utilize for precise navigation during its Moon landing?

4. What is the upcoming mission by China that aims to land in the lunar south pole region in 2026?

Kindly share your responses in the comment section!!

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