Japanese Moon Lander – SLIM’s Key Features, Challenges and Future Scope!

The Japanese Moon lander, SLIM (Smart Lander for Investigating Moon), has bounced back. Yesterday, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) announced they had successfully re-established the connection with SLIM after its bumpy landing on January 19, 2024.

Japanese Moon Lander

In 2023, Japan launched two Moon Landers to enhance the quality of space exploration. One is SLIM, and the other is HAKUTO-R but unfortunately, it crashed into the moon’s surface on April 25, 2023. 

Despite that, Haruto has provided some spectacular pictures of the earth and valuable data for future projects. Now, moving on to the SLIM Japanese Moon Landers that have been awakened from their rocky landing impact. 

Mission NameSmart Lander for Investigating Moon
Nickname Moon Sniper
TypeLunar lander and rover
OperatorJAXA
Duration4 months, 24 days (elapsed) (since launch) 10 days (since landing)
Launch date 6 Sept,23 [23:42:11 UTC]
RocketH-IIA 202
Launch siteTanegashima Space center
Orbital insertion 25 December 2023 [7:51 UTC]
Target SiteSinus Amoris near the western edge of the moon
Landing date19 January 2024 [ 15:20 UTC]
Landing SiteNear Shioli Crater
StatusOperational ( currently in lunar night)

Japan successfully launched the XRISM on September 6, 2023, and later that day, SLIM separated from the XRISM. It was planned to land near a crater named Shioli (a Japanese female first name)-that sits about 200 miles south of the Sea of Tranquility via a weak stability boundary-like trajectory. 

Key Features of SLIM (Japanese Moon Lander)

  • Lightweight design: Weighing only 590 kg, SLIM is significantly smaller and lighter than previous lunar landers. This allows for more fuel efficiency and precise landings. 
  • High Accuracy Landing System: SLIM utilizes a sophisticated navigation system and thruster control technology to achieve a precise landing within the projected 100-meter-long landing eclipse. This led to the nickname “Moon Sniper.”
  • Equipped Scientific Instruments:  SLIM is equipped with many scientific instruments to analyze lunar soil composition, measure surface radiation, and study the lunar atmosphere. It is equipped with a multi-brand camera to capture images of the lunar surface. The JAXA agency has already shared some images on X captured by SLIM.

Japanese Moon Lander

SLIM – Japanese Moon Lander Challenges 

On January 19, 2024, SLIM landed on the lunar surface, but due to a thruster malfunction during the descent, it landed upside down, leading to a challenging nine days. Due to its upside-down landing, its solar panels face away from the life-giving sunlight. It survived on its batteries for two hours and sent the previous data and images before falling silent. 

The agency said they have shut down the explorer to save its power until it automatically regenerates its power through solar panels. 

After 10 days, on Monday, JAXA was successful in re-establishing the connection with SLIM as it gained its power back.

And now, the Japanese scientists are racing with time to squeeze out every piece of scientific data and information before it again slips into the darkness, as it was not designed to survive the lunar night.  The lunar night lasts about 14 days when the surface of the moon is not exposed to the sun.

Japanese Moon Lander (SLIM) Future Scope

SLIM has set out to achieve several ambitious goals, pushing the boundaries of lunar exploration and paving the way for future collaboration. 

It serves as a crucial testbed for technologies that will be essential on future lunar missions exploring hilly moonpoles. It has provided valuable insights into what can work and what needs to be improved for future projects.

JAXA, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, actively seeks to collaborate with international partners in exploring the Moon. The success of SLIM can pave the way for further partnerships in global cooperation to expand space exploration.

Before Japan, India was the most recent one to land on the unexplored part of the moon’s south pole through Chandraya 3. We can expect some new scientific data that will help in unveiling the secret of the moon.

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