Japan is gearing up to make history by becoming the fifth country to successfully land a spacecraft on the moon, marking a significant achievement for its space program.
The precision landing, scheduled for Friday, is seen as a crucial milestone for the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) following a series of setbacks that have overshadowed its space initiatives, especially in comparison to China’s advancements.
The mission, known as the “moon sniper,” aims to land the JAXA probe within an unprecedented 100 meters of its target, showcasing advanced technology crucial for exploring lunar resources such as water and assessing the potential habitability of the moon.
Japan, in its bid to play a more prominent role in space exploration, is collaborating closely with the United States, particularly in response to China’s growing military and technological influence.
Despite facing setbacks, including the launch failure of the flagship rocket H3, Japan maintains ambitious plans, including sending an astronaut to the moon as part of NASA’s Artemis program.
The SLIM (Smart Lander for Investigating Moon) probe, designed by JAXA, is set to initiate a 20-minute touchdown phase from midnight on Saturday, aiming for a specific site on the lunar surface.
This high-precision technology is touted as a potential advantage in future moon missions, including the international Artemis program.
JAXA shows the value of precision landing and advanced technologies, such as near-infrared cameras for analyzing moon rocks, in establishing Japan’s prominence in space exploration.
In 2025, the nation has announced its plans to collaborate with India on a joint unmanned lunar polar exploration.
Japan’s Lunar Mission
While acknowledging the resource limitations compared to global space powers like the US, China, and India, experts suggest that Japan’s focus on developing sought-after technologies may prove strategically advantageous in the long run.
The upcoming landing follows India’s historic achievement with Chandrayaan-3’s successful touchdown on the moon’s south pole in August.
Japan, however, aims to demonstrate its capabilities in precision technology, vital for exploring challenging lunar terrains and potential resources.
JAXA’s previous successes include landing on small asteroids, but the moon’s higher gravity presents unique challenges.
Despite recent setbacks in lunar exploration by other nations, experts highlight Japan’s extensive experience in space operations.
While SLIM’s precision landing is not deemed a game-changer, it is expected to showcase Japan’s capabilities and contribute to reducing the cost of future moon missions globally.
The mission’s success will be verified over the next month, with SLIM also set to deploy mini-probes developed by tech giant Sony Group, toymaker Tomy, and Japanese universities, marking a collaborative effort in advancing lunar exploration technology.