Japan moon lander enters lunar orbit

In a significant move toward the nation's anticipated first successful lunar landing next month, Japan's SLIM space probe reached the moon's orbit on Monday.

The "Moon Sniper" moniker comes from the Smart Lander for Investigating Moon (SLIM), which is intended to land on the lunar surface within 100 meters (328 feet) of a particular target.

After the United States, Russia, China, and India, Japan would become the fifth nation to have successfully landed a probe on the moon if the landing is successful.

As stated in a statement issued Monday evening by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), SLIM "successfully entered the moon's orbit at 04:51 pm Japan time" (0751 GMT) on Monday.

"Its trajectory shift was achieved as originally planned, and there is nothing out of the ordinary about the probe's conditions," the FBI stated.

On January 20, at around 12:00 am Japan time, the lander is slated to begin its lunar descent. Twenty minutes later, JAXA stated, it will land on the moon.

After three delays due to inclement weather, the H-IIA rocket carrying the lander launched off in September from the southern island of Tanegashima.

The project would involve a "unprecedentedly high precision landing" on the moon, according to JAXA's announcement this month.

The spherical probe that the lander is outfitted with was created in collaboration with a toy firm.

It is around the size of a tennis ball and is able to alter form in order to travel over the lunar surface.

Thanks to the result of a 20-year research effort, SLIM's alleged margin of error of less than 100 meters implies a degree of accuracy formerly considered unattainable, compared to earlier probes that landed "a few or 10-plus kilometers" distant from objectives, according to JAXA.

Shinichiro Sakai, JAXA's SLIM project manager, told reporters this month that there is an increasing need to pinpoint objects on the lunar surface, including as craters and rocks, due to technological advancements.

"Gone are the days when merely exploring 'somewhere on the moon' was desired," he stated.

Sakai continued, "There is also great hope that SLIM's accuracy will facilitate the sampling of lunar permafrost, taking scientists one step closer to solving the enigma surrounding the moon's water resources."

Both of Japan's missions—one governmental and one private—have failed.

As part of the US Artemis 1 mission, the nation dispatched the Omotenashi lunar probe, which was a failed endeavor last year.

Japanese startup ispace made a fruitless attempt to land on the moon in April, losing contact with its ship following what it called a "hard landing."