Japan successfully launched its Smart Lander for Investigating the Moon (SLIM) mission on 07th September, 2023, Thursday morning, after unfavorable weather led to three postponements in a week last month.
The H-IIA rocket carrying the SLIM spacecraft lifted off from Tanegashima Space Center in southern Japan as planned at 10:31 a.m. local time (1:31 a.m. GMT). The rocket released the SLIM spacecraft about 15 minutes later.
SLIM is a small spacecraft, weighing just about 200 kg. It is designed to land on the moon’s surface and conduct a variety of experiments, including:
- Measuring the lunar surface composition
- Studying the lunar dust environment
- Testing new landing technologies
SLIM is the first moon landing attempt by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA). An earlier attempt made by a private Japanese company in May 2023 had ended in failure.
If SLIM is successful, it will be a major milestone for Japan’s space program. It will also demonstrate that Japan is capable of landing on the moon with precision, which is a key requirement for future missions, such as sending astronauts to the moon.
SLIM is expected to reach the moon in February 2024. It will then spend several months conducting its experiments before sending data back to Earth.
The SLIM mission is part of Japan’s broader plan to return to the moon in the 2020s. JAXA aims to send astronauts to the moon by 2029 and establish a lunar base by the 2030s.
The successful launch of SLIM is a significant step forward for Japan’s space program and its ambitions to return to the moon. It is also a boost for the global space community, which is increasingly looking to the moon as a staging ground for future exploration.
In a statement, JAXA said the launch was “a major milestone in Japan’s lunar exploration program.” The agency said it is “confident” that SLIM will be a success and that it will “contribute to our understanding of the moon and its resources.”
The launch of SLIM was watched closely by other countries that are also planning moon missions, including the United States, China, and Russia. The successful launch of SLIM is a reminder that Japan is a major player in the global space race and that it is determined to play a leading role in the future exploration of the moon.