Science & Technology

Japan’s SLIM probe made most precise space landing to date

Tokyo, Jan 25 (EFE).- Japan’s latest space probe, which made Japan the fifth country in the world to successfully land on the moon, carried out the most precise space landing to date, after managing to land about 55 meters from its target, the Japanese Aerospace Agency said Thursday.

The Smart Lander for Investigating Moon, or SLIM, landed on the Earth’s natural satellite at 00:20 local time on Saturday (15:20 GMT on Friday), after a rough descent of 20 minutes in which it lost one of its two engines, the agency’s General Director Hitoshi Kuninaka said Thursday in a press conference.

“Even so, it landed about 55 meters from the target, so we consider it a success, since our goal was for it to do so within a radius of 100 meters,” he said.

JAXA is currently analyzing the causes of the engine loss, which they believe was due to an external factor.

The device established communication with Earth after landing on the moon, but was unable to generate energy from its solar cells “because the behavior during landing was not as planned,” as its panels were mistakenly oriented to the west.

With a view to recovery if sunlight conditions are favorable, the SLIM probe was turned off at 2:57am local time on the same day with a sufficient battery percentage to reactivate.

The agency has not yet offered a forecast on when it believes this could occur so that the probe would be operational again.

If it had not lost one of its motor control units, the probe could have executed a much more precise landing, that is, landing within a radius of about 10 meters from the target, “possibly between three and four meters,” project leader Shinichiro Sakai said.

The SLIM probe had navigation cameras installed that identified the craters of the Moon through comparisons between the images taken by the device and the lunar maps it carried, made from previous global lunar missions, and its obstacle detection functions. They worked well, the leader said.

Sakai also confirmed the successful detachment of two small robots traveling in the module, LEV-1 and LEV-2, although at a lower altitude than expected. The latter was able to take lunar surface images, which were transmitted to the team and are being analyzed.

“The movements of LEV-1 and LEV-2 are confirmed, so their functions have been proven. Once (SLIM) is operational again, its research can continue and we hope to obtain more scientific results,” Sakai added.

The main objective of SLIM was to make a precision landing within a radius of 100 meters around the Shioli crater, close to the lunar equator, an unprecedented accuracy until now. Conventional moon landings currently have a margin of several kilometers.

Another secondary mission of SLIM was to take images to be used in the Artemis lunar exploration project, a part that has been impacted by its power problems. EFE


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