Japan Aims for the Moon with SLIM: Updates28th Aug 2023
Update 28 August:
JAXA called off the launch for SLIM and XRISM on 28 August due to high winds aloft. The windy conditions made it possible for some of the rocket’s debris to fall into populated areas. JAXA has not announced the next launch, but for refuelling purposes, the next attempt could occur no earlier than 31 August.
Japan has plans to become the fifth space-faring nation to place a spacecraft on the moon. JAXA, the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency, is attempting to launch the Smart Lander for Investigating Moon, or SLIM mission, along with the X-Ray Imaging and Spectroscopy Mission (XRISM) satellite. A successful landing for SLIM will put Japan in the same league for lunar missions with the United States, Soviet Union, India, and China. India’s Chandrayaan-3, which landed on 23rd August, is the first-ever lander to collect data at the lunar south pole.
What is SLIM
SLIM will do more than lift Japan to the league of nations with a lunar reach. If successful, the satellite will break records from the moment it lands. SLIM is designed to use imaging software adapted from facial recognition technology to land within a 100-metre sized target. This compares with the Apollo 11 landing, which targeted an elliptical area measuring 20km by 5km. Because of the relatively precise landing attempt, the project has branded itself the Moon Sniper as well.
Once on the ground, SLIM will deploy two rovers. The first, called Rover 1, will move by hopping. The second, weighing 250g (less than 9oz), can change its shape to increase mobility. Pokémon manufacturer Tomy helped develop Rover 2.
The main payload on the launch is the XRISM satellite. This satellite, originally planned for launch in 2021, is an X-Ray observatory that fills several holes created when the Hitomi mission failed after a month in space. Both NASA and ESA have partnered with JAXA to build XRISM .