Japan launches 'moon sniper' lunar mission

Japan's lunar mission comes two weeks after India successfully landed its craft on the moon's south pole

Japan launches 'moon sniper' lunar mission (photo: DW)
Japan launches 'moon sniper' lunar mission (photo: DW)


Japan on Thursday, 7 September, launched its lunar mission after overcoming multiple delays due to unfavourable weather conditions.

The H2-A rocket blasted off from the Tanegashima Space Center in southern Japan, Japan's space agency (JAXA) announced.

The rocket is carrying the country's 'moon sniper' lander, which is expected to touch down on moon's surface in four to six months.

Japan's attempt at precision landing

Japan's lander, officially called the Smart Lander for Investigating Moon (SLIM), is designed to land within 100 m (328 feet) of a specific target on the moon. This is far more precise than the usual margin of several kilometres.

"By creating the SLIM lander, humans will make a qualitative shift towards being able to land where we want and not just where it is easy to land," JAXA said before the launch.

Globally, "there are no previous instances of pinpoint landing on celestial bodies with significant gravity, such as the moon", the space agency said.

JAXA added that such precision landing will open up a future where landing can happen on planets with fewer resources than the moon.

The rocket is also carrying a research satellite developed by JAXA, the US's National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the European Space Agency (ESA).

The research satellite carrying SLIM is also expected to observe the hot gas plasma wind that blows through the universe. This will help understand the flow of mass and energy as well as the composition and evolution of celestial objects.

Japan hopes for success after multiple failed attempts

Several lunar landing attempts by Japan have failed, including last year's, when it sent a probe called Omotenashi as part of the US Artemis programme.

Omotenashi would have been the world's smallest moon lander, but it lost contact.

In April, a Japanese start-up called ispace failed in an ambitious attempt to become the first private company to land on the moon.

Japan's launch on Thursday comes two weeks after India, in a historic triumph, landed its Chandrayaan-3 near the moon's south pole.

India is the first country to land a probe on the south pole. Besides India, the US, Russia and China are the only countries to have safely land a spacecraft on the moon.

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