Japan's SLIM spacecraft prepares for historic lunar landing

by alex

SLIM reached lunar orbit and prepared for the next stage

Japan's robotic lunar lander SLIM successfully entered low circular lunar orbit, preparing for landing on January 19th. SLIM (short for Smart Lander for Investigating Moon), reached lunar orbit on December 25, after a 110-day journey to our natural satellite.

Following plan, the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency JAXA conducted an orbital descent maneuver on January 14th. The spacecraft's navigation camera captured images of the lunar surface during the maneuver.

«We confirm the completion of all preparatory activities for descent and landing», — noted in JAXA. The live broadcast of the landing attempt will begin approximately an hour before the start of the process. During the landing procedure, the device will begin to reduce its speed from approximately 1,700 meters per second. Its main goal will be to land no more than 100 meters from a certain point on the slope of the Shioli crater.

The vehicle is equipped with five 3D-printed aluminum mesh landing legs that will soften the impact of landing and ensure stable placement of the vehicle on the slope of the 300-meter wide crater.

The successful landing of SLIM will make Japan the fifth country to achieve a soft landing on the Moon. In August 2023, India became the fourth country thanks to the Chandrayaan-3 mission.

After landing, SLIM will spend the remainder of the lunar day in Shiori Crater, conducting a series of experiments. It is equipped with a multi-band camera MBC, which will be used to assess the composition of the crater by analyzing the spectra of light reflected from the lunar surface. Researchers pay special attention to the search for olivine — a mineral that may have been raised by geological processes from the interior of the Moon.

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In addition, SLIM will deliver two small rovers. The LEV-1 lunar lander is equipped with a jumping mechanism, and LEV-2 is a spherical rover, the size of a baseball. Both are equipped with cameras and scientific instruments.

SLIM was launched on September 6, 2023 on an H-2A rocket from Tanegashima Base in Japan along with the XRISM space telescope, which NASA and JAXA are currently working on troubleshooting. SLIM first entered low orbit around the Earth and performed a series of maneuvers to raise its orbit. On December 25, the device entered orbit around the Moon.

SLIM — one of many missions aiming to land on the Moon in 2024. After a fuel leak, the US Peregrine spacecraft, developed by Astrobotic, was unable to reach the lunar surface and is expected to return to the Earth's atmosphere on January 18.

At the same time China is preparing for its «unprecedented mission» to collect samples on the far side of the Moon, which is planned for around May, and Intuitive Machines plans up to three landings. The first of these, IM-1, is scheduled for February.

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