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Japan’s SLIM Achieves Precision Moon Landing with Help from Chandrayaan: A Significant Leap in Lunar Exploration

Moon landing with help from Chandrayaan Japan made their successful moon mission. Lunar topography captured by the Chandrayaan 2 orbiter (background) overlaid with images acquired by the SLIM navigation camera during its second hovering step (blue squares) at an altitude of about 50 m. 

Japan’s SLIM Marks a Milestone in Lunar Exploration

Japan’s space agency, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), confirmed the successful and precise landing of its moon lander, the Smart Lander for Investigating Moon (SLIM), on January 19. This achievement places Japan among the elite nations that have soft-landed robotic instruments on the lunar surface.

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Photo Credit: JAXA

 

Moon Landing with Help from Chandrayaan: Precision Landing

JAXA initially faced uncertainty regarding the landing precision due to a failure in the spacecraft’s solar panels, preventing power generation. However, subsequent assessments revealed that SLIM executed a controlled descent, demonstrating a pinpoint landing capability.

Engine Glitch During Descent

Despite the success, JAXA disclosed that one of SLIM’s two main engines failed during its descent. This revelation adds a layer of complexity to the mission’s success and triggers investigations into the correlation between the engine failure and the solar panels’ power generation issues.

Chandrayaan’s Crucial Assistance

As SLIM descended near the Shioli crater, it relied on assistance from India’s Chandrayaan 2 mission. Chandrayaan’s orbiter provided detailed maps of the lunar surface, aiding SLIM in identifying obstacles and optimizing its descent trajectory.

The ‘Moon Sniper’ Achieves Its Mission

SLIM’s primary mission was to land within a small 100 m by 100 m patch on the moon—a goal achieved with remarkable precision. This designated landing spot earned SLIM the nickname “moon sniper,” emphasizing the mission’s unprecedented focus on accuracy.

Moon Landing with Help from Chandrayaan
Credit: NDTV

Engine Failure and Drift to Alternative Landing Spot

SLIM maintained its positional accuracy within 10 m of the designated landing spot until it was 50 m above the surface. However, the engine failure caused a deviation, and SLIM eventually landed 55 m east of the intended spot. Investigations are underway to determine if the engine failure is linked to the solar panels’ malfunction.

Technology Demonstration and Future Collaborations

While SLIM’s landing deviated from the original plan, JAXA highlighted the successful technology demonstration of pinpoint landing accuracy within 100 m. This milestone sets the stage for future lunar exploration missions, including potential collaborations with the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) in the Lunar Polar Exploration (LUPEX) mission.

LUPEX Mission: Collaborative Lunar Exploration

JAXA and ISRO are expected to collaborate on LUPEX, another lunar surface mission, where SLIM’s precision landing experience will play a pivotal role. LUPEX aims to soft-land in the challenging terrain of the moon’s south pole region, exploring areas with permanently shadowed parts that may contain water ice.

Conclusion: Advancing Lunar Exploration Horizons

In conclusion, Japan’s SLIM mission marks a significant leap in lunar exploration, showcasing not only technological prowess but also the collaborative spirit in the international space community. As SLIM paves the way for future missions, the successful precision landing opens doors to unravel the mysteries of the moon’s surface with unprecedented accuracy.

An artist’s impression of JAXA’s SLIM moon-lander on the lunar surface.
An artist’s impression of JAXA’s SLIM moon-lander on the lunar surface. | Photo Credit: Reuters

FAQs:

  1. Q: What caused the uncertainty in SLIM’s landing precision initially?
    • A: Uncertainty arose due to the failure of SLIM’s solar panels, which affected power generation.
  2. Q: How did Chandrayaan 2 assist SLIM during its descent?
    • A: Chandrayaan’s orbiter provided detailed maps of the lunar surface, aiding SLIM in identifying obstacles during its descent.
  3. Q: What is the significance of SLIM’s nickname “moon sniper”?
    • A: The nickname emphasizes SLIM’s unprecedented focus on precision, aiming to land within a small 100 m by 100 m patch on the moon.
  4. Q: How did SLIM’s engine failure impact its descent trajectory?
    • A: The engine failure caused SLIM to deviate, ultimately landing 55 m east of the intended spot.
  5. Q: What is the next collaborative mission between JAXA and ISRO?
    • A: JAXA and ISRO are expected to collaborate on the Lunar Polar Exploration (LUPEX) mission, focusing on lunar surface exploration in challenging terrains.

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