Japan says spacecraft lands on moon, becomes world’s 5th country to do so

TOKYO: Japan on Friday became the fifth country to put a spacecraft on the moon but the probe was not generating solar power, its space agency said, during a mission to prove a “precision” landing technology and revitalise a space programme that has suffered setbacks.
The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) said its Smart Lander for Investigating Moon (SLIM) landed the moon’s surface at around 12.20am (local time) and re-established communication with earth, but its solar panels were not able to generate electricity, possibly because they are angled wrong.”SLIM is now operating only on its battery, and we are prioritising the transfer of its data onto earth,” Hitoshi Kuninaka, the head of JAXA’s space lab, said.
Dubbed the “moon sniper”, SLIM attempted to land within 100 metres of its target, versus the conventional accuracy of several kilometres, a technology JAXA says will become a powerful tool in future exploration of hilly moon poles seen as a potential source of oxygen, fuel and water. It will take up to a month to verify whether SLIM had achieved the high-precision goals, JAXA has said.
Japan is increasingly looking to play a bigger role in space, partnering with ally the US to counter China. Japan is also home to several private-sector space startups and the JAXA aims to send an astronaut to the moon as part of Nasa’s Artemis program in the next few years. But the Japanese space agency has recently faced multiple setbacks in rocket development, including the launch failure in March of its new flagship rocket H3 that was meant to match cost-competitiveness against commercial rocket providers like SpaceX. The failure caused widespread delays in Japan’s space missions.
Only four nations -the former Soviet Union, the United States, China and India – and no private company have achieved a soft landing on the moon’s surface.
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