Japan's moon lander mission to be launched on Thursday

SLIM will take around three to four months after launch to enter the Moon's orbit.  
Mrigakshi Dixit
Depiction of SLIM on the lunar surface
Depiction of SLIM on the lunar surface


After India and Russia, Japan has set its sights on the Earth’s natural satellite, the moon. 

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) is attempting to make its first moon landing by deploying an advanced lander called Smart Lander for Investigating Moon (SLIM) on the lunar surface. 

The earlier liftoff of the H-IIA rocket carrying the lunar lander on August 27 was canceled owing to adverse weather conditions at the launch site barely 30 minutes before the intended launch.

The mission has now been rescheduled for launch on September 7 at 08:42 JST / 00:42 BST / 01:42 CEST. 

The launch will take place from the same location, Tanegashima Space Centre in southern Japan. The launch window is open until September 15.

SLIM will take around three to four months after launch to enter the moon's orbit.  

Reportedly, the H-IIA launch vehicle is jointly developed by JAXA and Japan's Mitsubishi Heavy Industries. The vehicle is credited for 45 successful launches since 2001.

Japan aims to test precise landing tech

This mission's primary purpose is to test this technology for precise landings — within 100 meters of the chosen site — on the trickier lunar terrain. 

The lander aims to touch down in the Shioli Crater, a 984-foot-wide (300-meter) impact basin in Mare Nectaris on the moon's near side.

“The mission designed to demonstrate accurate lunar landing techniques by a small explorer, with the objective of acceleration of the study of the Moon and planets using lighter exploration systems,” NASA mentioned.

Moreover, the mission is being presented as an opportunity to prove the capability of landing on the moon at specific desired locations rather than merely opting for more accessible landing sites. This precise landing method would allow a robotic probe to land near scientifically relevant locations on the moon. 

Furthermore, Japan foresees the application of this technology extending beyond lunar missions. The precision landing technology would allow us to explore other worlds of our solar system in the future. 

SLIM also showcases cost-effective and lightweight lander technology that could be utilized in missions focused on returning samples to unravel the mysteries of our solar system's early years.

Tricky lunar landing 

When landing on the uneven lunar surface, no assurances of success exist. An earlier attempt by a private Japanese company in May of this year had failed. While Russia's Luna-25 also crashed on the moon's south pole during a soft landing attempt. 

In August, India achieved a successful soft landing of the lander module on the moon's south pole.

The Chandrayaan-3's Pragyaan rover has already provided evidence of the presence of sulfur, iron, oxygen, and various other elements on the lunar surface. The lander and the rover have been placed in a dormant state and are scheduled to be reactivated on September 22.

Another payload aboard Japan's rocket is the European Space Agency's X-ray Imaging and Spectroscopy Mission (XRISM), a joint project with JAXA. The rocket will place the satellite in a low-Earth orbit at a height of 550 kilometers. XRISM has been designed to collect data on black holes, galaxy clusters, supernovae, and other intense events such as active galactic nuclei.