Japan’s SLIM Lunar Orbit Entry

Japan’s SLIM Lunar Orbit Entry

News: Japan’s Smart Lander for Investigating Moon (SLIM) successfully entered lunar orbit on December 25, marking a crucial step before its planned moon landing on January 19.

Background:
• The outcome of SLIM’s mission carries significance, as it may impact the upcoming Chandrayaan 4 mission.

About Japan’s Lunar Mission:
• It is developed and launched by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) on September 7, 2023.
• It weighs 590 kg at launch, significantly lighter than Chandrayaan 3.
• It was launched alongside XRISM, a next-gen X-ray space telescope, onboard an H-2A rocket.
• SLIM’s launch closely follows the success of Chandrayaan 3’s surface component and Luna 25’s failure. SLIM marks Japan’s second attempt in 2023 for a lunar soft landing.

Key objectives:
• SLIM is known as the “moon sniper” for its remarkable precision in landing. It is scheduled to attempt a landing within 100 meters of its chosen site on the moon thereby demonstrating accurate lunar landing techniques.
• Testing technology fundamental to exploration in low-gravity environments: SLIM will test technology that is fundamental to exploration in low-gravity environments, an important requirement for future scientific investigation of the solar system.
• SLIM’s landing site is near the Shioli Crater at 13.3º S and 25.2º E. Similar to Chandrayaan 3, SLIM will use data from JAXA’s SELENE orbiter (Kaguya orbiter) to guide its descent.
• Prior to landing, SLIM will deploy two small rovers, Lunar Excursion Vehicle (LEV) 1 and 2. LEV-1, LEV-2, and SLIM will collectively study the lunar surface, gather temperature and radiation readings, and attempt to explore the moon’s mantle.

What is SLIM’s impact on Chandrayaan 4 mission?
• Scientists aim for the moon’s south pole region due to perpetually shadowed craters containing water-ice. Chandrayaan 3’s success marked the conclusion of the second phase of India’s lunar exploration program.
• Lunar polar exploration (LUPEX), or Chandrayaan 4, is the first mission of the third phase. It is joint venture with Japan (pending Indian approval) and scheduled for a potential launch in 2026. LUPEX will explore an area closer to the moon’s south pole compared to Chandrayaan 3.
• JAXA is expected to provide the launch vehicle and lunar rover; India contributes the lander module. However, the landing site for LUPEX is yet to be determined.

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